Dr. William Lang said Americans need to be careful of overreacting when it comes to the coronavirus.

The media is more concerned with the big numbers, Lang said, noting that the U.S. could see 200,000 deaths and over one million people infected if nothing is done to combat the virus. But that is unlikely, he said. “And the numbers are not important,” he added during a Financial Advisor webinar today.

What’s important is to put it in perspective. That means look at what happened in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak and the worst hit location in the world so far. Lang, a pandemic planning expert, former White House physician and medical director for the Deptartment of Homeland Security, said that Wuhan had 75,000 cases out of a population of 11 million, or about 0.7%.

Another perspective, he said, is the total number of cases in all of China were roughly 81,000, or 6,000 additional cases outside of Wuhan, in a nation with a population of 1.4 billion.

Lang said Covid-19 is not as highly lethal a virus as many think. “It’s just that right now it appears more infectious because there is no immunity in the general society,” he said.

“When all the data is in, we believe we will have a lower fatality rate than with the swine flu or the 1917 flu,” he added.

One of the big problems with the swine flu and the 1917 flu, he explained, is that they were spread evenly across population, affecting mostly healthy young males. Covid-19, he said, is very infectious because people have very little resistance to it. 

If you spend 15 minutes riding in a car with somebody actively coughing and sneezing or even if you shared a desk with that person, the risk of getting Covid-19 is 10% to 12%. That is “not great, but it’s still fairly low,” he said.

Lang acknowledged this is worse than anything we have seein in society in recent times. “But the numbers are still really, really small,” he said.

He added that 80% of people who get infected and symptomatic will experience relatively mild symptoms and they can be treated at home; 15% will need the care of their primary care provider; and 5% may require care such as being admitted to a hospital, and that’s usually the elderly, he said.

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