Over the past week, our amygdala complex* — the fear center at the heart of our brain — has been overloaded! As the coronavirus spreads, it is very concerning to see how much fear of the pandemic is circulating in our news and social media.
During one of the worst days for the coronavirus in China (Feb. 10, 2020), 108 people died. By comparison, every day around the world:
And yet the panic due to coronavirus is everywhere. Let's look at the data.
During the 2017-2018 season, CDC figures put the flu-related deaths at around 290,000 to 650,000. By comparison, globally, the coronavirus epidemic has resulted in approximately 3,500 deaths worldwide (today's numbers) for 102,000 people infected.
If the mortality rate of coronavirus now seems higher than that of classical influenza (estimates range from 1.4% to 3.5% according to the WHO), the balance sheet of classical influenza is surprisingly heavier than that of COVID-19. Are we overreacting?
Can we really compare COVID-19 and seasonal flu?
YES, we can compare the impact that COVID-19 has on our amygdala next to that of seasonal flu, and be surprised at the disproportion of our response.
But, NO, you can't really compare COVID-19 and seasonal flu, especially when you study their dynamics. Indeed, the mortality of COVID-19 is 5 to 20 times higher than that of the seasonal flu, and its transmission rate at least 2 times higher. If we took no other precautions or isolations, it would be logical to predict that the damage caused by COVID-19 would exceed that of the seasonal flu. Uncertainty paralyzes us again.
For the past two weeks, our brain has reacted as if we were walking around at night in a savanna infested with predators. Social networks only amplify the slightest surrounding noise. And the authorities who will be held responsible if a disaster occurs are paralyzed by the precautionary principle, therefore they prefer to overplay caution.
As with any infectious disease, it is justifiable to worry and take sanitary measures. But trying to understand the phenomenon as it evolves, following the data, listening to the experts, also helps limit the epidemic of fear that is sweeping down on us and paralyzes us.
Here are some of the concrete actions we can take:
Obviously, strictly follow the official instructions to avoid the spread of the virus.
Then, prepare to work and live differently. This epidemic is a real test for companies. With my team we anticipated a possible confinement very early, and to guarantee the continuity of our activities, we accelerated a decentralized and remote work organization: videoconference, webinars, virtual workspaces, etc.
Also, the worst way to stay informed is to trust social media. This health crisis is also a major information crisis. In the coming months there are chances that we will study this episode as one of the first major planetary panic.
Finally, to help limit this global fear, we, along with the entire Boma network, are organizing a global event to learn the first lessons from this epidemic. It will take place on 4 continents and will offer hours of conversation with our experts. This summit will take place online in the coming weeks. It will be free and open to the public and will bring together health actors, psychologists, sociologists, activists, researchers, innovators and I hope, each of you! Check back for updates.
* Some data and elements in this post were extracted from the last post of Peter Diamandis