Coronavirus epidemic and the health care system in Germany
Let us beginn with a series of worrying numbers, that nonetheless help understanding daily reports on coronaviruses. Around 2,500 people died in Germany every day in 2017, most of them from cardiovascular diseases. Cancer and, thirdly, respiratory diseases follow among the causes of death. 750,000 people develop pneumonia every year. As a result, 291,000 were hospitalized in 2016, and more than 30,000 of these patients died. (That’s 756 hospitalised patients a day, 82 of whom die.) So the number of deaths from pneumonia is about ten times higher than the number of traffic fatalities.
For comparison: According to the Robert Koch Institute on March 19, 2020, we have 10.999 coronavirus infections and 20 deaths in Germany. An estimated 500 patients are in the hospital. The number of people who survived the virus is currently not recorded centrally.
In the coming months, a good 50 million people in Germany will be infected with corona viruses. If the spread will happen over a period of 10 months, that would mean a number of 5 million infected (not sick!) people per month. Since around 10 out of 100 infections take a severe course, this would result in 500,000 expected hospital treatments for the infection per month. If one in 100 infected people died, that would mean 5,000 deaths a month.
Such an epidemic would place a heavy demand on the existing health system capacity and create a real health care problem. (The health care system in Germany has a total of 500,000 hospital beds, and approximately 28,000 intensive care places available.) If the above numbers are spread over a 24 months period instead, the associated burden on the health system would certainly be manageable.
According to estimates by the Robert Koch Institute, over 145,000 people in Germany have contracted the virus flu since autumn 2019, and 247 have died from the consequences of the disease. About 16 percent of all cases were treated in clinics.
The 2017/18 flu season was the worst in 30 years with 25,100 deaths from influenza: around nine million visits to the doctor, 5.3 million sick days and nursing care. 60,000 people older than 35 had to be treated in the hospital. Given these figures, we have to expect around 3,000 deaths from the combination of influenza viruses and serious chronic diseases for the current 2019/20 season.
- If the spread of coronaviruses and a growing immunization of large sections of the population are spread over two years, the situation can be managed by the healthcare system.
- The climax of the challenge will presumably occur from June to August 2020, and afterwards, similar to the virus flu, will occur individual cases, but no unusual illness events.
- The burden on health care depends upon the tipping point, at which the currently increasing numbers stabilise, and decline again.
Up to 80 deaths daily from coronavirus pneumonia are tragic, yet are not out of the range of deaths that occur daily in Germany (80 compared to 2,600 daily deaths in Germany).
- The daily disaster reporting on illnesses and deaths, including the self-staging of virologists, who juggle uncommented figures, are not comprehensible for most people, are unrealistic and cause fears and thus favour irrational decisions by politicians and individuals.
- Anxiety strains the immune system and also worsens the immune system against the corona virus.
- Panic, fear and loneliness, especially among older and lonely people, develop themselves into causes of illness.
Huber, Ellis: Das Virus, die Menschen und das Leben – Das Corona Virus im Vergleich zur alltäglichen Gesundheitsversorgung Ellis Huber, Internet, gesehen am 18.3.2020
Statistisches Bundesamt (https://www.destatis.de/DE/Themen/Gesellschaft-Umwelt/Gesundheit/Todesursachen/_inhalt.html)