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Is COVID-19 The Worst Virus In Human History?

Date: Friday, March 13, 2020 11:31 AM EDT

The simple answer is no, not by a long shot. But given the media coverage, it can certainly feel like it.

There are a lot of factors conspiring to make this outbreak seem especially bad. For one, it has been quite some time since the world has experienced a major outbreak.

Prior to 1900, it was relatively difficult for diseases to spread as broadly and quickly as they do today.

However, thanks to modern transportation, global pandemics can now develop relatively quickly.

We also have to consider that there are personal, political and monetary interests behind making the COVID-19 outbreak as scary as possible.

The media, vying for views, is apt to present a more worrying narrative. Politicians, on the other hand, see it as an opportunity to increase spending. And, people, in general, can get a lot of attention by sharing the scariest posts on social media.

It’s a Concern, Not the End of the World

The reality is that this is not an exceptionally deadly virus outbreak. In fact, it isn’t even the first coronavirus outbreak, nor the deadliest of the coronavirus outbreaks.

However, precisely because it’s less deadly, it might be more dangerous and harder to control.

The official designation for the current outbreak is COVID-19, but the virus itself is SARS-Cov-2. Sound familiar?

Yep, this is another strain of the SARS (Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak from 2002-03. That outbreak had a mortality rate of nearly 10% and was contained relatively quickly, with just over 8K people being infected.

Historic Cases

Many have drawn parallels between this outbreak and prior viral pandemics. One that is often referenced is the 1918 “Spanish flu” which ravaged the world at the conclusion of WWI.

About a quarter of the world’s population was infected, with around 50 million deaths.

The Spanish flu actually originated in China, but it’s a completely different virus than the current pandemic: influenza.

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