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This Imagen TV video (posted 27 February) (Spanish) reports a claim by Mexico's Undersecretary of Health, Hugo López-Gatell, that approximately 78 million Mexicans could end up with COVID-19, ~8 to 10 million infected people would show symptoms and a 2 to 5% of these could have severe symptoms which could lead to death.

Is that a reasonable prediction?

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That 78 million figure out of 128 million is consistent with the 40% to 70% worst case estimates for coronavirus infection rates. PolitiFact rates this as half true, not so much because it's half true (e.g., credible sources here, here, and many other places), but because "that is a projection, and other projections vary."

These are worst case projections that assume status quo conditions. Quoting from the PolitiFact article once again, emphasis mine,

Other estimates are similar. The Guardian reported on Feb. 11 that 60% of the global population could be infected if the virus is unchecked.

In other words, with no vaccine, no cure, no travel restrictions, no quarantines, and no social distancing, a majority of the people on the planet might be infected.

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  • Doesn't this happen almost every year with the common flu ? – KonKan Mar 20 at 3:46
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    @KonKan - No. This level of catastrophe happens maybe once every 100 years with influenza. Maybe. The 1918 Spanish Flu killed about 50 million people worldwide, 675000 in the US. Given the population increase since then (factor of four worldwide, factor of three in the US), that would correspond to 200 million deaths worldwide, 2 million in the US. Without intervention, this disease would almost certainly be worse than was the 1918 Spanish Flu. – David Hammen Mar 20 at 4:30
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    @KonKan - And even the annual flu is not something to be tossed off as a minor inconvenience. It kills tens of thousands in the US alone every year. This is why doctors harp on us to get a flu vaccination every year. Unlike the flu, this new disease has no vaccine and no built-in immunity. – David Hammen Mar 20 at 4:32
  • @DavidHammen The population today is much healthier than at the time of the Spanish Flu, in particular in wealthy countries. I think that your point "this disease would almost certainly be worse" is stated with too much certainty. – gerrit Mar 20 at 16:23
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    @KonKan and gerrit -- What you complained about were comments, but they are correct. – David Hammen Mar 21 at 4:20

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