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The world in excitement: is the fear of the new corona virus justified?

2020-02-03T11:16:26.550Z

ZEIT ONLINE | News, backgrounds and debates



Regensburg (dpa) - The flu in Germany is a deadly plague. According to estimates, there may be tens of thousands of deaths and millions of sufferers in violent waves. In addition, the new corona virus is almost harmless. Nevertheless, the world is excited, drastic measures are the result. There are well-founded concerns - but also emotions.

Experts would like the new virus to disappear completely. They want to use all available measures to prevent a new pathogen, which is fatal to some patients, from implanting itself in the world population. The Robert Koch Institute also believes that it is crucial to prevent the virus from spreading to humans. Otherwise, there is another virus that could cause serious respiratory diseases, said a spokeswoman.

In addition, the virus is new and has not been thoroughly researched. "As long as you don't finally know something about such a virus, the greatest possible caution is always required," said Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) on Monday in the ARD morning magazine, looking at pictures of hospital staff in safety suits.

The measures for containment - China seals off cities with millions, countries close borders, infected people are isolated - aim to prevent as many further illnesses as possible, says Bernd Salzberger, President of the German Society for Infectious Diseases. It is also about saving time: "The slower it goes, the more we know about countermeasures such as antiviral drugs - which are also used in China - and may also create a vaccine."

In addition to these scientific reasons, there is also an emotional component to concerns. The images from China, where the new corona virus first appeared, appear drastic. Cities are swept empty, millions of people isolated from the outside world. Michael Siegrist, risk perception expert at ETH Zurich, says that little is known about the virus and that people have also died, encouraging a high level of risk perception.

The psychological effect of fear and the perception of threats should not be underestimated - this also applies to authorities, adds Sonia Lippke, health psychologist at Jacobs University Bremen. According to Lippke, the Chinese authorities seem to have concerns that the population is losing trust - and that other countries consider the Chinese government to be incompetent. This leads to measures that "would not be common in Germany". The WHO explicitly praised China's response to the virus.

So far, more than 17,000 people have been infected with the new virus. Most of them in China. More than 360 have died. What does it do to people? "The increase in cases, especially in China, initially seems as if the situation is not under control," says infectious disease specialist Salzberger. You have something out of control - many people fear this idea.

At the same time, the images from the sealed-off Wuhan had an effect, says the Göttingen fear researcher Professor Borwin Bandelow. People said to themselves: "They don't do it without a reason". This can create fear, but it does not have to be justified. Bandelow says: "Fear is not a good thing in statistics."

There is generally less treatment for the flu than for the coronavirus. "We got used to it," explains Salzberger. Bandelow says: «Most people get flu and know that it will be over after 14 days. They don't think you can die of the flu. »

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Source: zeit

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