The worldwide epidemic of respiratory syndrome covid-19 passed the mark of 100 thousand infected and more than 3,500 deaths. In Brazil there are two dozen cases, already registered local broadcast and there are at least a person in serious condition.
It is a matter of time before the disease spreads further and deaths start happening here too. Measures that today seem unreasonable, such as closing schools, will become more common.
If the CoV virus reaches nursing homes, it will be devastating for the elderly. Up to 15% of those infected over 80 die.
Government and communicators dealing with the disease have an obligation to repeat that there is, after all, no reason to panic. Stocking masks and alcohol gel is irrational, as is risk getting the coronavirus in emergency room waiting rooms if the person does not have severe respiratory symptoms or a high fever.
This does not mean that the thing is not serious. It is serious, yes, people.
Here and there we hear the argument that dengue, malaria or the flu (influenza) are more serious things, which kill many more people. There is some truth there. Some 400,000 patients with influenza die each year in the world; in Brazil, in 2019, there were more than 900 until the end of winter.
Anyone who concludes that there is no reason to worry is wrong. In the case of influenza, there is knowledge about its epidemiological dynamics, vaccines, effective antivirals and antibodies in the population, which does not prevent it from being a public health scourge.
None of this is available in the case of the coronavirus.
When it comes a new virus like that CoV, the whole of humanity is vulnerable. Even more so when the incubation period is long, as in your case, during which the carrier continues to infect others without knowing it.
In addition, many who contract the new virus develop mild and benign forms of the disease. These carriers tend to go unnoticed, which makes it very difficult to know with any precision how many are the transmitters, effectively.
The cloud of ignorance that hangs over the covid-19 makes it difficult to plan actions to combat it. In the United States, the initial distribution of diagnostic kits was a disaster, motivated perhaps by the hesitation of the Donald Trump administration, prone to distrust the evidence and refractory to the precautionary principle (as in the case of climate change).
The mortality rate of the disease was estimated at around 3.4%, but it refers to the total number of known cases in the world, not those that actually exist, among which perhaps the majority go undetected. It seems likely, if and when there is more accurate data, the future finding that it is actually lower, at 2% or 1%.
Reassuring? Not exactly. At the current rate, it will come as no surprise if the pandemic reaches the millions of people affected, after all, covid-19 has already reached 93 countries. And most of them are not dictatorships like the Chinese, which has power and means to impose quarantines on tens of millions of citizens.
In this scenario with millions of patients, 1% or 2% of deaths (not to mention 15% among the elderly) will represent a frightening number. It is therefore necessary to take the coronavirus seriously and wash your hands thoroughly – often, not in a panic.
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