Coronavirus: Not as Deadly as the Flu

This has been getting a lot of attention lately, perhaps because it is a novel Coronavirus, or people are predisposed to worrying about China-originated epidemics(see SARS, bird flu). The scope of the issue, while still alarming due to its contagious nature and international presence, is widely overblown when compared with the flu virus. From USAToday:

So far, there have been an estimated 19 million cases of flu, 180,000 hospitalizations and 10,000 deaths in the U.S. this influenza season – including 68 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That is orders of magnitude higher than the Coronovirus. So why then is the media treatment of these two viruses so different? Certainly the U.S. has some incentive to portray China as a developing country which struggles with healthcare and contamination. This could be used as leverage in our trade negotiations, particularly with respect to our trading partners whom we want to feel that:

  1. The U.S. is a stable, secure trading partner, and
  2. China is an unstable, economically risky trading partner

The economic impact of the Coronavirus is already being felt within the Chinese economic sphere, but is it simply overreaction? The flu virus is not causing a proportional drop in productivity, despite its greater mortality; at least that is, according to what is being reported on. Time will tell whether Pandemics or other geopolitical “instabilities” will continue to get this treatment in the media as they come out from China.

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