Amongst the outpouring of news from the BBC, a web article appeared today under the headline: ‘How deadly is the coronavirus?’
You may think that this is strange given how the BBC in the company of other media outlets pour figures out every day of the deaths that have occurred where the virus was present.
But that’s the point.
It is always of those who have died with the virus in their body.
It is never reported that people have died due to the virus itself, or if it is, I stand to be corrected but I have never personally seen it.
Nick Triggle, the BBC’s health correspondent, writes:
“The death figures being reported daily are hospital cases where a person dies with the coronavirus infection in their body – because it is a notifiable disease cases have to be reported.
But what the figures do not tell us is to what extent the virus is causing the death.
It could be the major cause, a contributory factor or simply present when they are dying of something else.”
Triggle goes on to say that the death of an eighteen-year-old was (at the time) the youngest recorded, but it was later revealed that sadly it was “due to a separate ‘significant’ health condition and not connected to the virus.”
Of course, to balance this, we have now heard of the death of a thirteen-year-old who it is believed had no underlying health conditions.
Every death is a tragedy for family and friends and, whether this novel virus played any part or not, they will remain so.
But I have two issues.
Firstly, I thank Nick Triggle for his article, but the media (including the BBC) stand guilty in my opinion for very regularly presenting news as if it were macabre entertainment.
Too often, I believe underlying health issues are used in reports as if they were some kind of Space Invader target, suggesting the deceased was quite surplus in the first place.
Secondly, Triggle says later in his article that “the Office for National Statistics [ONS] is now trying to determine the proportion of these deaths that are caused specifically by coronavirus.”
I think that this is absolutely crucial.
If we are going to find a defence to this virus, we have to understand its real nature and how and to what degree it is a (or perhaps the) lethal agent.
That’s why I think the work being done by ONS is so important.
Work that might also in time give some context to the terrifying headlines that none of us seem able to avoid.