The coronavirus raging in China has been the source of panic buying of masks, of mass quarantines, of hoarding, of business closures throughout China and cruise ship embargos in the US.  There is a real question whether the public has been consumed by hysteria or whether the virus is as dangerous as it seems to be.  Hundreds have died but to put that in perspective, China’s population is 1.386 billion.  Another way to look at it is the incidence of flu.  The CDC estimates that 12,000 Americans will die from it in any given year, not counting its impact on the rest of the world.  The coronavirus is deadly, but is it as dangerous as the Spanish flue of 1918?  That outbreak carried off “an estimated 20 million to 50 million victims, including some 675,000 Americans.”  We are nowhere near that record and are unlikely to reach it with the prophylactic steps being taken.  There is a worry, but it should be put into context.  Authorities should be over-communicating now and hammering a message of sensible precautions.  It is a time to calm the public and not frighten citizens more.

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