I have survived worse health risks than Covid 19
The statistics from medical literature that I have researched regarding various communicable diseases demonstrate that measles, malaria and typhoid are all highly infectious diseases just like Covid 19. The reason I picked these 3 diseases is their prevalence in India during my childhood years so as to put in perspective the risks to me of fatality from contracting Covid 19. This is not done to minimize the danger of being infected with this virus but to gain perspective from a personal standpoint and from my own life background.
Measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person. It can spread to others through coughing and sneezing. Also, measles virus can live for up to two hours in an airspace where the infected person coughed or sneezed. If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected. Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before through four days after the rash appears.
Since the measles vaccine was developed in the mid 60s the global health burden of measles has reduced dramatically. However folks of my age group spent their entire childhood exposed to the measles virus and many of us got the measles and hence got the immunity. The case fatality rate of measles for unvaccinated populations in low and middle income countries is reported at over 6% and higher for children below the age of 5. So people like me faced the scourge of the measles virus in a much worse social and environmental setting than we live in currently. We lived in an apartment building with 18 small 3 room flats that were less than 8 feet apart from each other. If one child got the measles the entire building would have sick children.
Malaria is endemic in India and large numbers of the population take quinine drugs regularly as prophylactics. Malaria is treated with quinine and even with treatment it has a mortality of 16% in a study of 1789 patients in India. During the monsoon season in India mosquitoes are everywhere. There was no fumigating of mosquitoes during my childhood as currently practiced in countries where mosquitoes breed easily. All night mosquitoes would buzz around my ears and bite me liberally. The mosquito repellent creams we use now were not developed neither were the coils that are currently used commonly in India to keep mosquitoes at bay.
In 2015, 12.5 million new cases of typhoid worldwide were reported. The disease is most common in India. Children are most commonly affected. The risk of death may be as high as 20% without treatment. Even with treatment, it is between 1 and 4%.
I list these statistics to demonstrate the concurrent risk factors that I and most folks my age ( mid 70s) faced if they grew up in a low or middle income country like India. I reviewed with increasing horror the statistics for case fatality rates from these 3 diseases that I faced during my childhood and feel like I have lived through a war zone being bombarded by germs and viruses and dirty air and water. I am simultaneously grateful and astounded that I have made it to this age.
Of course the world is infinitely more interconnected now so that a pandemic can spread quickly as this one has done. Nevertheless the annual disease burden of preventable diseases like malaria in developing nations continue to exact a heavy human death toll.
Comparing the statistics for fatality risk from measles, malaria and typhoid during my childhood to the World Health Organization’s tentative figure of a case fatality rate of 1–3% for Covid 19 gives me pause to reflect on my personal fatality risk. I am not planning to be complacent and will continue to fully embrace all the social distancing measures in place currently to avoid overwhelming the medical infrastructure. However the perspective that I unknowingly overcame health risks orders of magnitude higher makes me quite optimistic of the personal outcome from the curse of Covid 19.