Thu 2020-03-26 01:31

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Seasonal influenza ("the flu") in the United States

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Season U.S. Population Cases (% pop.)* Deaths (% cases)*
2010 - 2011 309,320,000 21,000,000 (6.8%) 37,000 (0.18%)
2011 - 2012 311,560,000 9,300,000 (3.0%) 12,000 (0.13%)
2012 - 2013 313,830,000 34,000,000 (10.8%) 43,000 (0.13%)
2013 - 2014 315,990,000 30,000,000 (9.5%) 38,000 (0.13%)
2014 - 2015 318,300,000 30,000,000 (9.4%) 51,000 (0.17%)
2015 - 2016 320,640,000 24,000,000 (7.5%) 23,000 (0.1%)
2016 - 2017 322,940,000 29,000,000 (9.0%) 38,000 (0.13%)
2017 - 2018 324,990,000 45,000,000 (13.8%) 61,000 (0.14%)
2018 - 2019 326,690,000 35,521,883 (10.9%) 34,157 (0.1%)

* Estimated, because apparently we aren't bothered enough by these numbers to track them with certainty.

COVID-19 in the United States

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Season U.S. Population Cases (% pop.)* Deaths (% cases)*
2019 - 2020 329,340,000 54,453 (0.02%) 737 (1.4%)**

* Confirmed and presumptive cases reported as of 2020-03-25.

** Only about 95,000 individuals in the U.S. have been tested for SARS CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). In addition, there has been no widespread testing for the presence of COVID-19 antibodies in healthy individuals (which would indicate that the person previously had the virus, may or may not have been symptomatic, and later recovered). We don't even have a widely available antibody test, yet. So note that while this mortality rate looks much higher than seasonal flu, it may also be disproportionately high because we don't have accurate case numbers yet. Basically, we probably won't really know just how deadly COVID-19 is/was until after the pandemic runs its course.

I don't put these numbers up to downplay or diminish the seriousness of COVID-19, but rather to try to apply some reasoned perspective to what has become a highly sensationalized disease. One to which (in my opinion) people are assigning a disproportionate level of concern, and a vastly disproportionate response in measures to control it.

During the 2017-2018 flu season almost 14% of Americans caught the disease and 61,000 people in the U.S. died from it. I'm getting older and my memory may not be the best, but I don't recall a nationwide economic shutdown in 2017 or 2018. I don't remember everyone being told to stay home for two weeks, or the federal government spending $2 trillion dollars in stimulus to stave off a recession or depression. I don't recall runs on the grocery store or widespread shortages of toilet paper.

And importantly, I don't remember a 24-hour-a-day media blitz about what was (clearly, objectively) a deadly influenza epidemic. We didn't have a "national conversation" about the disease. In fact, it seems like most peoples' attitudes remain unchanged about influenza - that it's just a common, routine disease. You get sick for a week, feel like crap, and get better. No big deal. If your office is giving them out for free, you get a flu shot (maybe).

Why didn't I have 100 articles a day in my RSS feeds talking about an epidemic that infected 45 million Americans and killed 61,000, and yet today my feeds are flooded with stories about a virus that has (thus far) infected 54,000 Americans and killed 737? It just seems to me like something is really off base here.

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