Medical Tuesday Blog

Pundits crowding our medical experts

Jun 19

Written by: Del Meyer
06/19/2020 12:28 AM 

Unfortunately, we live in an era of people spouting opinions on social media and cable news with no knowledge of a topic. TV pundits with no knowledge of virology, public health, or pandemic history are crowding out medical experts. Twitter, which promotes shouting over listening, is also loaded with comments ignorant to the data. News networks should push aside legacy political commentators and put infectious diseases physicians on the air to warn the public about the pandemic. Now more than ever, physicians need to speak up about the pending health crisis in the U.S.

Arguments about the exact case fatality rate (CFR) have become a distraction from the real issue at hand — preparedness. While it’s a worthy exercise to determine if CFR estimates are including mild or asymptomatic patients in the denominator, it does not change our need to prepare or how we treat individual patients. Data from Italy suggests the CFR may be as high as 3%-4%. Adding an assumption that roughly half of people with mild or no symptoms were not tested, it may be closer to 1.5%-2%, just below that of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic which killed 30 million people. The Diamond Princess ship was a controlled case study: 705 people tested positive for the virus, and seven died, suggesting a 1% CFR, albeit a slightly older skewed population. Regardless of where the true CFR is between 1% and 3.4% as the WHO is reporting, this is, at best, at least 10 times worse than a bad flu season and at worst, a pandemic that could claim millions of American lives.

Marty Makary, MD, MPH, is MedPage Today’s Editor-in-Chief as well as professor of health policy & management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Click here to see all of MedPage Today’s COVID-19 coronavirus coverage.

Last Updated March 19, 2020

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