This really isn’t something you can put a simple number to.
Suppose we use the numbers in the USA in an effort to establish a scale:
IN THE USA:
* A typical Influenza - (which MOST people would probably call a ‘1’ on the scale) kills between 12,000 and 61,000 people in a year - between 0.004% and 0.02% of the population per year.
* COVID-19 - has (so far) killed 300,000 people in about a year. So about 0.1% of the population.
* Spanish Flu, out of a population of (then) around 100 million - killed about 500,000 people. So about 0.5% of the population in a single year. We should probably give that a ‘10’ because it’s the most serious pandemic in 100 years.
So that would give us COVID being 1/5th as bad as Spanish Flu…a ‘2’ on our scale?
But is it right to just look at recent pandemics and narrowly at US numbers?
* Influenza rates are comparable to the USA - so that’s still a ‘1’.
* The Black Death killed between 30% and 60% of the population over about 4 years - so very roughly, 8% to 15%…let’s call it 10% - and put that at ‘10’ on our scale.
If that’s a “10” then COVID doesn’t even make an ‘1.5’ on the scale.
IN GUINEA, SIERRA LEONE AND LIBERIA:
Ebola killed 11,300 people over 3 years.
COVID-19 killed 5,200 in Guinea, 1,800 in Liberia and 2,500 in Sierra Leone…so a total of 9,500 people in ONE year.
So someone living there would assign a ‘10’ to COVID and a mere ‘4’ to Ebola.
There is scarcely anyone left who lived through the Spanish Flu - so should we people of the 21st century even count that at all?
If we ignore the Spanish Flu pandemic - then Heart Disease is the most lethal disease in the USA - killing 655,000/year, Cancer kills 600,000 - if we give Heart Disease a ‘10’ and Cancer a ‘9’ - then COVID scores about a ‘5’ out of ten.
Rightly or wrongly, a lot of the spread of COVID has been put down to younger people - who are less likely to die from COVID ignoring the “no partying, wear masks” rules. This is CLEARLY because they rate COVID lower on the scale than the people aged 50 and above who are much more likely to die from it.
So what scale can we use if different people rate the disease differently?
BUT “TERROR LEVEL”:
When we compare the death rates from COVID and Ebola in West Africa - we SHOULD rate COVID much higher than Ebola - but I 100% guarantee that people living far from that area would put Ebola MUCH higher on the scale.
The reason is (I believe) that if you catch Ebola - you’re very likely to die - but if you catch COVID, it’s much less likely. However, even in places like Guinea where Ebola has struck hard - you’re much more likely to catch COVID but more likely to recover from it.
So should a disease with a low probability of you getting it but a high mortality rate score higher than a disease which spreads like wildfire, but has a 95% recovery rate?
What about AIDS - where only certain groups of people are at risk. A gay, intravenous drug-using, promiscuous male has to put AIDS further up the scale than a straight, non-drug-addicted woman who is in a stable relationship.
Their fear level is predicated by their risk levels again - and we don’t have a one-size-fits-all scale.
SHOULD IT EVEN BE A LINEAR SCALE?
Sied Talebinejad former Freelancer, self-employed, web development
9 if you have an awful immune system or you're likely vulnerable to any kind of disorder or disease for that matter…
9 if you're an elderly person since many of them are suffering from the above
1 if you're a younger person or even middle age as long as you're born healthy like the majority of usually are, and avoid drinking, smoking, eating way too much junk food and processed food and exercise regularly or at least try to. Basically, you try to lead a normal healthy life, so you have nothing to worry about.
It's pretty pathetic that in American society people treat this virus as if it's the bubonic plague. The majority of us want to get on with our ordinary lives and here we have politicians scaremongering and overexaggerating the situation to instill fear, panic and feelings of helplessness to bring people under their exploitive control. First BLM, now this nonsense…
The majority of my family members and close friends who got it were fine. They survived as annoying as it was. I even know a few people with preexisting health conditions who survived it and it wasn't as bad as they had originally feared. It's going to vary obviously person to person, body to body, but I'm sick and tired of Western idiots who try to scaremonger and advocate for shutting down the economy when millions of jobs are at stake.
In China and most of Asia, people have moved on with their lives and solved the problems immediately, whereas in the US politicians on both side of the debate intentionally help spread the disease. Moreover, in some nations like Iran, the people have chosen to ignore scaremongering of politicians regarding the virus and very few actually became ill and despite China, Iran, Italy, Spain among others suffering from the virus during the initial outbreak, the number of sick people and deaths have been proportionally fair and normal compared to what we're witnessing in the US
People need to stop panicking and worrying. Instead, wear a mask when in front of strangers and coworkers, social distance for the moment being, continue going to school, college, work and like we've historically have always been doing. Shutting down an entire economy is incredibly irrational and barbaric. How does starving to death solve the issue? It doesn't!
Mike Brant Retired Geezer
I’d rate it at an 9, currently. I answered this question months ago, and I’m increasing my level of concern.
It is becoming clear to me that because we are deep in this medical crisis, the medical community is utterly focused on acute symptoms - on keeping patients alive - and completely unable to deal with the fact that this virus can test negative and somehow still be wreaking havoc. While this might be a failure of the testing, which is usually a nasopharyngeal swab after all, and not a blood test
Jeffrey Werbock musician, lecturer
It’s hard to know what you are actually asking; by “serious” do you mean medically, socially, economically, psychologically? Let’s take medically serious first. For those who get infected, there seems to be a small but significant minority who get really sick from it then recover, an even smaller but still significant minority seem to have long term symptoms and this is referred to as long covid-19. An even smaller but still quite significant minority die from this new disease. I think that is pretty serious even before we compare those stats to some other disease. The most serious cases which entail long covid-19 and death appear to be caused by blood clots. A lot of microscopic blood clots in the lungs will mimic life threatening pneumonia and can kill by triggering a cytokine storm that causes the victim to drown in their own fluids.
Socially it is pretty devastating as you read reports on the misery inflicted by the lockdowns and the damage done to relationships, careers, friendships and mental health. Economically, probably you know as much as anyone the damage already done and yet to be done by this epidemic. Psychologically we are all living with a new fear. Pretty serious, I would say. Is it as serious as climate change? Water / soil / air pollution? Nuclear war? Big asteroid? No. But it is, statistically, much worse than the earthquake of Dec 26, 2004 that killed a quarter million in southeast Asia.