We tend to fear threats that we do not understand, and that may be prudent. But why do we not fear threats that we do understand? Influenza comes around every year, and it takes a toll as revealed by the information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control cited below. The data is for seven years starting with the winter 2010-11 “flu” season.

2010-11: 290,000 people hospitalized; 37,000 died.

2011-12: 140,000 people hospitalized; 12,000 died.

2012-13: 570,000 people hospitalized; 43,000 died.

2013-14: 350,000 people hospitalized; 38,000 died.

2014-15: 590,000 people hospitalized; 61,000 died.

2015-16: 280,000 people hospitalized; 23,000 died.

2016-17: 497,000 people hospitalized; 38,000 died.

These facts are known, but many of us decline to receive a “flu” vaccination even though many insurance companies and Medicare pay for the service. Measles, the most contagious disease known, can be prevented by vaccinating children. Some parents refuse.

We tend to ignore annual influenza because we know its characteristics or think that we do, but we fear COVID-19 because we don’t know what it can do. What do we know? We certainly know that while measures to maintain Wall Street investors may have merit, it has nothing to do with stemming the spread of the novel coronavirus. Even if stock prices rose to the highest level in history, the virus wouldn’t notice.

The coronavirus has found a new host. It will be exploring to find its best niche in the human body. Consequently, we should expect that the effects of the virus will differ among patients.

Until fairly recently, humans were besieged with fatal diseases that had no cure, including bubonic plague, cholera, diphtheria, influenza, malaria, measles, pertussis, polio, scarlet fever, smallpox, typhoid, typhus, tuberculosis and yellow fever. Medical science has put most of these human diseases in abeyance. We now have well-developed medical institutions and medical researchers in the United States and other countries. We have valid reason to be optimistic that coronavirus will be contained.

But if a vaccine is developed, will we bother to get vaccinated?

Jack Stevenson, who served two years in Vietnam as an infantry officer, retired from military service, worked three years as a U.S. Civil Service employee and in Egypt as an employee of the former Radio Corporation of America (RCA). Currently, the retiree reads history, follows issues important to Americans, and writes commentary for community newspapers.

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