- The outbreak of a novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China, has sparked fear and anxiety around the world despite the virus’ low fatality rate.
- People’s psychological reactions to infectious diseases can sometimes be overblown and do more harm than good, some experts say.
- Still, preventative measures like increased handwashing and not touching your face protect against coronavirus and other illnesses.
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The outbreak of a new coronavirus has sparked fear and anxiety around the world.
The pneumonialike virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has infected more than 9,700 people and killed 213.
So far, the virus does not seem to be as deadly as SARS, which killed 774 people from 2002 to 2003. SARS had a mortality rate of 9.6%, whereas about 2% of people infected with the new coronavirus have died. But the number of people infected after one month has already surpassed the SARS outbreak’s eight-month total.
Many patients with coronavirus have already made full recoveries. According to Chinese officials, most of those who’ve died were elderly or had other ailments that compromised their immune systems.
Experts say that for the most part, global panic over the Wuhan coronavirus is unproductive and unwarranted: The public should take precautions to avoid getting sick, but the most effective preventative measures are everyday actions like increased handwashing and not touching your face.
An expert also said fear would not stop the spread of the virus and could cause negative social impacts.
“There’s the spread of infectious disease, then there’s the spread of panic,” Amira Roess, a professor of global health and epidemiology at George Mason University, told Business Insider. “They have very different mechanisms.”
In the early stages of an infectious-disease outbreak, Roess added, much of the panic is “fear of the unknown.”