Coronavirus fears overhyped? Expert panel puts outbreak in perspective

A top doctor at America's largest public health system sought to give people more information to help them evaluate the dangers posed by the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

"This is a concerning outbreak," said Dr. Syra Madad, who is the senior director of the special pathogens program for the New York City Health and Hospitals corporation, which operates public hospitals and clinics.

"One of the reasons why there is obviously so much fear and anxiety is because it's new and no one likes new," she told the panel on Fox Nation's "Deep Dive" on Monday.

"It's also very important to put things in context. ... There are a number of other infectious diseases out there that are obviously more fatal and even more common [than coronavirus].

"Right now in the northern hemisphere, it's still peak flu season time. ... There's already been 32 million Americans, at the minimum, that have been infected with seasonal flu over a period of just a few months."

Of those 32 million inflections, Madad said that there have been at least 18,000 deaths so far this year. In comparison, coronavirus infections are approaching 90,000 cases, with over 3,000 deaths.

"Another issue to focus on when it comes to China," added Michelle Makori, who is editor in chief and anchor at i24NEWS. "When we say 3,000 deaths, at least 2,800 of those have been in China."

"There are environmental issues that impact the death rate in China. Very high incidence of pollution. This is a respiratory illness, after all, and a very high rate of smoking, particularly amongst Chinese men, who we're seeing have the highest death casualties," she continued.

Makori observed there is also poor air quality and a high prevalence of smoking in Iran, which is reportedly experiencing a higher rate of coronavirus deaths.

Madad agreed that environmental factors may influence the lethality of the virus. She also pointed to statistics that show that over 40,000 people have recovered after being infected.

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"It's interesting to note that the World Health Organization has the fatality rate [of coronavirus] outside of the epicenter, outside of Wuhan, at 0.7 percent," said Makori. "However, the reaction to this is as though we're talking about Ebola, which has a 90 percent fatality rate."

"When we talk about coronavirus disease, it is a very concerning infectious disease," Madad concluded. "But at the same time, we are still much more likely to get seasonal flu than we are to get the coronavirus disease."

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