Approximately one hundred years ago the world was plagued by another pandemic, the Spanish Flu, which was caused by an unusually deadly H1N1 influenza virus. Lasting from January 1918 to December 1920, it infected 500 million people – nearly one-third of the world’s population at the time. The death toll is estimated to have been anywhere from 17 million to 50 million, and possibly as high as 100 million, making it one of the deadliest pandemics in human history.

The case fatality rate of the infected in Spanish Flu was at around 10%, which is a fair estimate of CFR, considering the numbers above. The widely accepted CFR for Spanish Flu seems to be 2,5%, but that is not possible, considering the world had only 1,8 billion people in 1918 and making the 50 million death toll compatible with 2,5% would’ve required 2 billion infected – more than the number of people the whole world even had at that time.

To make some sort of comparison between Spanish Flu and COVID-19 caused by a Coronavirus, which is unfair as the latter is still ongoing, we need to set the numbers right. This is still just an estimates game even at its best, as COVID-19 symptoms vary a lot, some have it as extremely mild and are never added into the official statistics – but then again, also Spanish Flu might’ve been mild on some people, we don’t know.

World-O-Meter gathers official statistics from the COVID-19 numbers and it is updated frequently. At the time of writing this, there are slightly over one million Corona cases around the world. We need to remember that the pandemic is still ongoing and we don’t know much of the virus yet, but based on the current statistic that we have, let us make a few assumptions.

Corona cases are at one million (1 001 079). Cases which had an outcome, either cured or dead, are at two hundred sixty thousand (261 658). Now, to know the CFR of Corona, we need to look at the cases with the outcome, as the people still ill can fall to either one of the two categories. This is the trick you’ve been told. You’ve been told that the death toll of Corona is at fifty thousand (51 385), which is only 5% of the total cases. Well, that is correct, but the number to compare it to is a wrong one. CFR has to be counted from the cases with an outcome, and when we compare the 50 thousand to the two hundred sixty thousand, the CFR is almost at 20% (19.6% with the current numbers).

If one-third of the world’s population is to fall ill on COVID-19 as did with Spanish Flu and the CFR is at 20%, we are looking at quite grim numbers. World population have reached 7.8 billion in March 2020. A third of that is still 2.6 billion people. And with 20% CFR, the total death toll would be 520 million people. And this number doesn’t even take account the possible food crisis the world is facing for the Corona restrictions.

Things are not as straight forwards as these assumptions might suggest though. There are a lot of countries that do have a first-class health care system and the resources to tackle even the hardest threats, but there is always the flipside of the coin – a lot of countries do not. We also need to remember that the pandemic is only in the beginning. These numbers might even out towards the end.

Never the less, there isn’t any need for panic as it would do no good. A lot of people who get the virus will only get mild flu-like symptoms, some won’t get even that. We need to obey the restrictions and instructions the governments have imposed, take care of the social distancing and take care of proper hand hygiene.

Keep your spirit up and be kind to your kin.

The Finland Herald

Victor A. Lausas
Editor in Chief