New England Journal of Medicine: Coronavirus Could Be No Worse than Flu
An editorial published Friday in the New England Journal of Medicine speculated that the coronavirus currently causing panic in world markets could turn out no worse than “a severe seasonal influenza” in terms of mortality.
Citing an analysis of the available data from the outbreak in China, the authors note that there have been zero cases among children younger than 15; and that the fatality rate is 2% at most, and could be “considerably less than 1%.”
Those who have died have been elderly or were already suffering from another illness — as with ordinary flu. The underlying data suggest that the symptoms varies, and fewer than one in six of the cases reported were “severe.”
The authors note that coronavirus looks to be much less severe than other recent outbreaks of respiratory illnesses:
[T]he overall clinical consequences of Covid-19 may ultimately be more akin to those of a severe seasonal influenza (which has a case fatality rate of approximately 0.1%) or a pandemic influenza (similar to those in 1957 and 1968) rather than a disease similar to SARS or MERS, which have had case fatality rates of 9 to 10% and 36%, respectively.
The vast majority of patients recover, and among those who are hospitalized, the median stay thus far is 12 days.
Coronavirus, they note, does spread easily, and the average infected person has infected two other people. That means the U.S. should expect the illness to gain a “foothold.” But they note travel restrictions on China (imposed by President Donald Trump over the objections of some critics) “may have helped slow the spread of the virus.”