How deadly are pandemics?


Pandemics can vary greatly in their lethality, influenced by the specific pathogen involved and societal responses. , in a discussion on the , explains that the lethality of a pandemic depends on the pathogen; some like the bubonic plague and smallpox have had very high mortality rates historically, killing up to 30-50% of those infected. In contrast, the COVID-19 pandemic, while still serious, has a much lower mortality rate, roughly around 0.3 to 0.6% for those infected, and about 1% for those who show clinical symptoms 1 2.

The intermediate lethality of certain pandemics, such as COVID-19, can sometimes reduce the urgency of response compared to more deadly pandemics, where the threat is perceived as more immediate and severe. This perceived lower risk can lead to inadequate preventive measures being taken by the public and governments 1.

It's also important to note that the next pandemic could be far more lethal, and preparedness is crucial to minimize impact. Each pandemic poses significant risks, and without appropriate measures, even a pandemic with a relatively low mortality rate can result in widespread health, social, and economic disruptions 2.

Pandemic Response Reflection

Nicholas reflects on the U.S. response to the pandemic, highlighting missed opportunities despite scientific knowledge. He discusses the virus's unique characteristics and the importance of preparedness in facing such threats.

StarTalk Radio

Social Networks & Ending the Pandemic with Neil deGrasse Tyson & Nicholas Christakis