Mass Hysteria: A New Symptom of the Coronavirus


Tigist Layne

As of this week, schools are shutting down, the CIAC canceled all winter tournaments, and the Trump administration made harsher travel bans. Panic has emptied shelves in stores and prevented people from buying necessary household items such as toilet paper. Historically we have experienced similar pandemics in the past such as Mers-CoV, and SARS-CoV, so why is there all of this hysteria?

The coronavirus (COVID – 19) emerged in China in December of 2019, and the symptoms include coughing, fever, shortness of breath; this can lead to more serious issues such as respiratory problems, kidney failure, or even death. The reported illnesses have ranged from mild to severe; however, some cases have been asymptomatic. Since the COVID virus is more likely to be asymptomatic in younger generations, likely, many cases have not been reported. Thus, the data suggests that the majority of COVID – 19 cases have been mild; a report from China suggests that a serious illness occurs in 16% of the cases. The sever cases mainly occur in those with compromised immune systems such as the elderly or newborns.

As of March 13, 2020, 12 pm Eastern time the mortality rate of the COVID -19 is 3.4%; there have been 145,361 estimated cases and 5,416 deaths. However, the death rate for elderly individuals is much greater than the other age groups. Between ages 10-39 there is a 0.2% mortality rate, those between ages 60-69 have a death rate of 1.3%, between ages 70-79 the death rate jumps up to about 8.0%, and people 80 years plus have a mortality rate of 14.8%. The data is showing that the majority of age groups are safe from the coronavirus; however, if they contract it and spread it to the elderly then the death rates will begin to increase. Similarly, if someone contracts the disease and goes into a hospital, the death rate will increase extremely quickly because a hospital is a small space with many immune-compromised people; this happened in Italy. The coronavirus has hit Italy extremely hard leaving them with a mortality rate of 4%. However, the average age of those who have died in Italy is 81, but Italy has one of the largest elderly populations. Because the coronavirus is spread by person to person by having proper hygiene; washing hands, coughing into the inside part of the elbow, and staying home when sick, the likelihood of people contracting the disease will be reduced.

Overall, everyone should be prepared and take proper precautions; however, stockpiling obscene quantities of cleaning supplies and stealing N95 masks from front line healthcare providers is insane. Most people will only experience regular flu symptoms because coronavirus is mainly affecting the elderly population. In the past we have experienced previous pandemics that have death rates between 0.01% to 4%, therefore, there is no reason to panic as much we are panicking now. The population should stay alert but not panic at the current state; simple hygiene yet not devastating stores is important. We need to be vigilant and optimistic.