The fallacy of pandemic statistics by a layperson — A layman’s perspective to why an average non — medical layperson is wrong

(and have absolutely no idea what they are talking about)

Dear non — medical people, when you use case fatality rate of the pandemic to calculate your “idea” of mortality rate of the pandemic, and then deem the number of deaths as too few, you terrify the living daylights out of medical people.

Excuse us, but what gives you the notion that the case fatality rate (C.F.R) which is -

Gives you an understanding of the severity of the pandemic?

How many people have to die for you to consider that the pandemic is dangerous?

Epidemiologically speaking, an epidemiologist would be more than happy to kill the infected patients to prevent transmission of the infectious disease especially when it is extremely contagious and difficult to treat due to not having any definite medical therapy.
The ancient Mayans and the Aztecs did it. Hell, even North Korea apparently did it.

So, let’s kill the infected and call it a day?

This is how ridiculous you sound by basing your understanding of entire epidemiology on mere demographic statistics.

Think back about the avian (bird) flu and the swine flu. Entire numbers of poultry and pigs had to be culled to prevent transmission of the virus to other healthy animals as well as humans.

However, thanks to the “sentient consciousness” of humanity, we can employ quarantine measures to prevent the pandemic from spreading, innit?

All right, let’s humor you for a minute. To determine fatality, we have a lot of ways. Case fatality rate is not mortality rate. Mortality rates go somewhat like this -

And more important than case fatality rate, are infection fatality rate -

For COVID-19, this length of time is 2–3 weeks or more. Therefore, to calculate the case fatality rate, we should use the number of confirmed cases from a few weeks ago, rather than at the present time.

But, in the case of a “rapidly expanding epidemic,” the number of cases from a few weeks ago will always be much smaller than the current one, so “the true case fatality ratio will be higher.”

For argument’s sake, let’s assume that the case fatality rate is the mortality rate and it is 3.4%.
Statistically, that means, 3 out of 100 people would die roughly. But epidemiologically, it means entirely different from a medical point of view.

Epidemiologically, the pandemic has a 3.4% chance of killing you individually.
Are the people grasping that?
If the 3.4% mortality rate is based on bio-statistics (extrapolated from demographic statistics), and not mere demographic statistical analysis, then understand that the 3.4% mortality is used to indicate the severity of the disease versus the chances of medical science in saving the infected patient.

So, 96.6% chance of medical science in saving the patient.

Unfortunately, the immune system is unpredictable. We do know what the immune system response to any pathogen is, we know how the response is generated and could even estimate how strong the response is and we definitely know why the immune system response is generated as well as why in so and so manner.

Yet we don’t know when and the sequence of any immune response. This is what always leads to health complications from cardiac arrest to septic shock to any organ damage/failure.

So, in other words, 3.4% chance to die from the virus alone if lacking adequate medical care.

And 96.6% to either —

  1. die from the immune system (cytokines storm triggered by the virus) if medical science cannot save you due to the unpredictability of the immune response if it goes into overdrive.

Consider all possibilities given the limitations of the statistics in this manner, why don’t you? Numbers don’t lie, right?

That being said, provided the infected patient survives due to the 96.6% chance, that chance is of a survival rate, not recovery rate.

There would always be injuries and damages to the human body caused by the virus and the immune system response in killing the virus.

To give context to it, let’s say you have a 100% survival rate of jumping from a 3-story building. Yet, are you going to be completely uninjured? Absolutely not. There shall always be a fracture or two. Among brain damage and other myriad other medical concerns and health complications.

You definitely have a 100% survival rate from putting your fingers in the blender, but does that guarantee 100% recovery?

No. Bid goodbye to your fingers or its proper functionality.

We still have horrible recovery rates for this disease.

The virus and/or the immune reaction against it are capable of affecting even fetus and placenta of the uterus.

Among coagulopathy, neuropathy, cardiopathy and even nephropathy.

So, any person underestimating the severity of even a pandemic with an average of 3–5% mortality rate is doing a gross disservice to medical science. Especially when the long-term health complications are not clearly established.

Besides, statistics doesn’t offer context about the condition of the patient surviving the pandemic since only fatality and survival rates are taken into consideration.

Being in a vegetative state in coma is also considered “recovered” according to the statistics.

The statistics people are seeing doesn’t offer any perspective on the quality of life. All things considered, stabilizing the patient fighting for their life is the first and foremost priority of medical science, (independent) functionality are secondary gradual improvements made to bring the patients to their feet. If possible.

Another thing which people going purely by statistics of mortality and survival rate utterly fail to understand is that every immune system of every human being is as unique as their personality.

Take peanut allergy for example.
01% of the global population are allergic to peanuts.
It is a type 1 hypersensitivity reaction of the immune system and often, if not always, results in anaphylactic shock which could lead to death.

Does that mean peanuts have a 01% mortality rate for all humans on Earth?

Does that mean peanuts have a 99% survivability for all humans on Earth?

None of the above. Peanut allergy, if not avoided and treated in time, is only lethal to people who have a peanut allergy.
And 100% safe for those with no peanut allergy.

People with allergies to specific agents are often just as healthy as people without specific allergies, so statistics really does no justice to understand mechanics of any cause of death or degree of recovery and as such, simply cannot be extrapolated to understand the severity of a global pandemic.

The same with penicillin allergy of some people.
There would always be a demographic who would be allergic to penicillin but that would not be enough to bar penicillin as antibiotic treatment for majority of the people, innit?
Which is why people are screened for penicillin allergy before medications of penicillin are administered to them as infants.

Conclusion is, pandemic statistics are only for healthcare personnel to gain a degree of awareness as to where their work needs to be focused, where it is sufficient and where their work is complete.

Additionally, for non-medical people, pandemic statistics are only to understand where people are dying, which places to avoid and how to exercise their rights to demand better facilities from the government to improve quality of healthcare among other services in order to minimize degradation of lives.

Pandemic statistics are definitely not an invitation for arm-chair statisticians to dictate to medical personnel that they understand epidemiology better than medical personnel themselves just because they saw a bunch of numbers.

Trying to understand a pandemic’s severity on the sole basis of mortality rate and survival rate is akin to trying to understand how a car works based on vehicular accidents and the survival rate of the passengers/drivers.

There are more than scores of variables to consider to understand the severity of the dangers any pandemic poses.

If all it took was mortality rate and survival rate to become an epidemiologist, then literally any person with access to the internet would be an epidemiologist, innit?
But since people are so sure of their “facts” and that the numbers don`t lie rhetoric, lets consider the following parameters too -

  1. What is the R0 of the virus and the rate of its increase?

And so on but hope I made my point clear.

The doubling rate of the infected cases are only being curbed due to effective quarantine lockdown measures.

To think that the pandemic is all media hype and is not all that serious is grossly disingenuous.

Every pandemic starts small but to disregard an entire global pandemic because people are not dying enough to scare you to stay at home is akin to sticking your hand in a vessel of water set to boil and insisting that it is not hot and never going to get hot enough to scald the skin.

Everything done is done to prevent the health toll and the death toll from rising but to disregard the health toll the pandemic is capable of taking on us in favor of only the death toll is the proverbial missing the forest for the trees.

Just plain old standing under the umbrella and complaining it is not raining.

Additional References —