05 August, 2021

Masked Hysteria

Caution against SARS, like pneumonia, helps. But there's no need to panic.

illustration by Jayachandran
Masked Hysteria
The human race has faced epidemics of known and unknown diseases in the past and has survived. Let's then first get one basic fact clarified—Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) isn't likely to eliminate the human race. Stories of masked SARS victims make for good visuals and sound bites. What the media doesn't realise is the magnitude of unnecessary panic it creates among the public. Pneumonia or lower respiratory tract infection is the most common infectious disease in adults with a potential to kill. On an average, 10 to 30 per cent of people hospitalised with pneumonia succumb to it, with a higher risk of death with increasing age. SARS is just another type of pneumonia, the only difference being that it's caused by a coronavirus, a strain that hasn't been studied and characterised so far.

The main reason for the panic is that apart from the coronavirus being unknown to us, it has also spread very rapidly. People who have travelled to China, Singapore, Vietnam or other SARS-affected countries have been infected. And they, in turn, have infected others back home. A...

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