By Dr. John Pronk, ND
When issues become confusing, I believe it’s important to step back to get a bigger perspective.
In the last few articles (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3), I’ve discussed some of the controversy over what the “actual versus reported” COVID-19 death rates are, how the fear created by these huge reported mortality numbers has been the driving force behind government efforts to “flattening the curve,” how flattening the curve is also prolonging the curve and delaying the development of herd immunity, and how this delay has paved the way for a profitable race for a vaccine as our only hope.
To balance things out and put things in context, let’s contrast our current COVID pandemic with other notable pandemics of the past so that we can regain some peace of mind amidst all the panic.
How does COVID-19 compare to the Spanish Flu?
While COVID-19 meets the technical definition of a pandemic (i.e., an epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of people), the death toll is nowhere near that of earlier pandemics that would legitimately justify the extraordinary measures being deployed by governments around the globe.
The Black Death
For comparison, the Black Death, which swept through Europe between 1347 and 1351 and kept resurfacing at intervals for the next 300 years, decimated up to one-third of the population with each recurrence.
While the Black Death was long thought to be the same as the bubonic plague, in more recent years, researchers have questioned this assumption, and at least some of the evidence suggests they were not the same disease.
Either way, the plague killed 75 million to 200 million people in Eurasia, with deaths peaking in Europe from 1347 to 1351. As much as 60 per cent of the European population in rural areas were wiped out by the Black Death in the first four-year-long pandemic wave. People died within days of having symptoms. This horrific lethality is typically what people think of when they hear the word “pandemic.”
The Spanish Flu
Similarly, the Spanish flu (aka, swine flu), which hit during the First World War in 1918, infected 500 million people worldwide, killing an estimated 50 million, or 2.7 per cent of the global population.
It killed 675,000 in the U.S. alone — more than died in combat during the First World War, Second World War, the Korean, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.
Like the bubonic plague, the Spanish Flu was a very rapid killer, causing death in as little as 12 hours. Like the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the virus also spread very easily and rapidly. Unlike COVID-19, however, people between the ages of 20 and 40 were most susceptible to the infection.
With COVID-19, it’s the elderly and immune-compromised that are at greatest risk, but even in these high-risk groups, the mortality rate is nowhere near that of the Spanish Flu.
Data points vary, and mortality statistics differ widely depending on the country and area you’re looking at, but using the higher of two prominent COVID-19 trackers — Worldometer, opposed to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center – 373,899 people had died, globally, from COVID-19 as of June 1.
Based on a global population of 7.8 billion, 373,899 deaths amount to 0.005 per cent of the global population. Even if this tally is off by hundreds of thousands, we’re still only looking at a fraction of a per cent of the global population succumbing to COVID-19 in four and a half months.
Comparing these numbers to the common flu (influenza), a 2017 study indicated that the total number of people who died from the flu that year was between 290,000-650,000. We’re still on the lower end of that range for COVID-19.
April 15, there were also 1,403,420 active cases, 96 per cent of which were mild and only four per cent of which were serious or critical, so clearly, a vast majority of people who are infected make it through and end up having antibodies that will confer long-term immunity.
I, for one, could see shutting down the global economy for a true plague or something much like the Spanish flu, but COVID-19 simply doesn’t warrant the draconian elimination of personal freedom and liberty we’re currently seeing.
Nor is it serious enough to warrant the kinds of long-term surveillance strategies suggested by Bill Gates.
Understand what’s happening right now
Remember, infectious diseases have been with us since the dawn of mankind and are not going to stop. Ever.
Right now, we’re being told that we have to forgo our civil liberties because we might spread a virus to a potentially vulnerable individual, and if that happens, we’re culpable in their death. So, to prevent “mass homicide” from occurring by people moving about freely, we’re told we have to isolate ourselves and stop living.
Yet every single flu season throughout history, people have moved about, spreading the infection around.
Undoubtedly, most people who have ever left their house with a cold, stomach bug or other forms of influenza at any point in the past have unwittingly spread the infection to others, some of which may have ended up with a serious case of illness and some of which may ultimately have died from it.
There is simply no way to prevent such a chain of events in perpetuity. Giving up our civil liberties to prevent all future deaths from infectious disease is profoundly misguided, and ultimately will not work anyway.
Mortality predictions fall apart
Mid-March predictions said COVID-19 would kill 2.2 million Americans if allowed to run its course. By the end of March, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, downgraded the projected death toll, saying we were probably looking at 100,000 to 240,000 Americans dying.
On April 8, a new model referred to as the Murray Model downgraded the threat further, predicting COVID-19 will kill 60,000 in the U.S. by August— a number that is still 20,000 lower than the Centers for Disease Control’s death toll numbers attributed to the seasonal flu the winter of 2017/2018.
If COVID-19 is not causing any greater death toll than the regular flu season two years ago, why are we now asked to end society as we know it well into the foreseeable future? There’s no doubt in my mind that there will be far more deaths attributable to the financial collapse, fear, stress and isolation than there will be from the actual infection.
Whether all-cause mortality is going up or down, as predicted we are now starting to see a rise in suicides.
Suicide statistics reliably follow economic trends, with financial downturns triggering higher rates of depression and despair. According to an updated March 27, 2020, report by The Sacramento Bee:
“FirstLink, a company that answers both 211 helplines and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for North Dakota and parts of Minnesota said this week that call volume in some of its call centres is up 300 per cent.”
According to a spokesperson for the national Crisis Text Line, text conversations were double that of the normal volume during the week of March 15. Google also reports that searches for “panic attack symptoms” have doubled compared to last year.
The CDC, meanwhile, appears to take things in stride, noting that “Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children,” but that “Coping with stress will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.”
While true as a general statement, the current pandemic has delivered a perfect storm of challenges that is sure to bring many to a breaking point. We’re not just talking about fearing a disease. We’re also talking about the very real challenges of keeping a roof over our heads and feeding ourselves and our families when the entire country has been shut down and millions of workers have been laid off.
Similar warning signs are starting to be noted in other regions of the world. Closer to home, the director of Calgary’s Centre for Suicide Prevention stated that city police are already seeing an increase in calls related to suicide, but it’s hard to gauge just how bad the current situation is.
Unfortunately, this is likely the beginning of what is most certainly only going to worsen with time, as many financial experts are predicting a depression worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Help in times of need
We’re facing an unprecedented challenge, and it’s hard to know exactly what the right thing to do is. There are risks and benefits to every choice. However, I’ve argued since the very beginning that ignoring the human cost of economic collapse is a serious mistake. It’s an equally serious mistake to spread fear unless fear is truly warranted.
Mainstream media have a lot to answer for in this regard.
While the future is certainly unsure, I urge you to do what you can to keep yourself on an even keel going forward. Do your best to moderate your fears. And, if you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out to family, friends or any of the available services out there.
Dr. John Pronk ND practices natural medicine in Palmerston. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org