In December 2019, a new virus emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan, causing a sometimes fatal epidemic that later became a global emergency.
COVID-19 renamed now as SARS-CoV-2 belongs to a family of viruses that can manifest through colds to acute respiratory syndromes such as SARS, a virus that broke out in Hong Kong and killed nearly 800 people between 2002 and 2003.
1. Why is the coronavirus so bad?The virus has been described as “insidious” due to a large number of people who feel well enough to carry out their daily tasks, thus infecting other people. In just two months, the death toll exceeded that of the SARS epidemic.
At the beginning of February, the mortality rate was about 2%, significantly less than 10% for SARS. But the numbers cannot be certain until this point of the epidemic. According to Bloomberg, on March 7, 2020, there are close to 102,000 confirmed cases and 3,492 deaths since the beginning.
2. Will I die if I get infected?Coronavirus (COVID-19) is most problematic if you are over 70, a smoker and already had heart and lung problems of some kind.
The higher death rate in men could be caused by higher smoking rates for men in China. Smoking increases the risks of respiratory complications.
Patients who reported no pre-existing (“comorbid”) medical conditions had a case fatality rate of 0.9%. Having heart, lung, and diabetes increases the rate of death by 7 to 12 times.
SOURCES – WorldOMeter Data is from the Epidemiological Characteristics of an Outbreak of 2019 Novel Coronavirus Diseases (COVID-19) – China CCDC, February 17 2020.
3. What countries are most exposed to coronavirus?
About 80% of cases and deaths are in China. But the death rate — the number of known deaths out of the total number of confirmed cases — varies widely by country right now. The second in place is now Italy with over 12000 confirmed cases of which 2313 have been discovered in the last 24 hours.
Generally, the death rate seems to decrease as more people are tested and cases are confirmed. The death rate of a disease is different from its mortality rate — the latter is the number of deaths out of the number of people in an at-risk population. A death rate is not a reflection of the likelihood that any given person will die if infected.
|Country||Cases||New Cases||Deaths||New Deaths||Recovered|
|Moldova, Republic of||752||161||12||4||29|
|Palestinian Territory, Occupied||217||23||1||0||21|
|Isle of Man||126||12||1||0||0|
|Trinidad and Tobago||103||5||6||0||1|
|Tanzania, United Republic of||20||0||1||0||3|
|Libyan Arab Jamahiriya||18||1||1||0||0|
|Syrian Arab Republic||16||0||2||0||2|
|Antigua and Barbuda||15||0||0||0||0|
|Lao People's Democratic Republic||10||0||0||0||0|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||9||0||0||0||0|
|Central African Republic||8||0||0||0||0|
|Holy See (Vatican City State)||7||0||0||0||0|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||7||0||0||0||1|
|Turks and Caicos Islands||5||0||0||0||0|
|British Virgin Islands||3||0||0||0||0|
|Falkland Islands (Malvinas)||1||0||0||0||0|
|Papua New Guinea||1||0||0||0||0|
While this variation between countries may sound concerning, the rate strongly depends on how many people get tested for the virus. In countries like South Korea and China, which have tested hundreds of thousands of people, the death rate is lower than in, say, the US, which has tested less than 2,000.
4. How does it compare to other epidemics?
From a genetic point of view, it is similar to SARS, but it seems to be milder in terms of symptoms and mortality. Another related virus, MERS-CoV, which was born in 2012, has killed 34% of the 2,499 reported cases. By comparison, 50 million people died in the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic that infected almost a third of the world’s population.
5. How does it spread?
Most likely, through the almost invisible drops a person emits when talking, coughing and breathing, they can be transmitted directly to people in the immediate vicinity by touching their hands or other surfaces.
There is a risk, until now only at the theoretical level, according to which the virus can be transmitted by faeces or by small particles – aerosols. In addition, people who have not had any symptoms can spread the disease.
6. How contagious is it?
Epidemiologists are trying to define the potential for contagion by estimating the number of people that can be infected by a person. The measurement is only an indicator that represents the high degree of control of an epidemic.
The World Health Organization has published a number between 1.4 and 2.5 for COVID-19, while a group from the Chinese Academy of Sciences has published a potential number of 4.08 potential people infested by a single man.
7. Why is it called coronavirus?The coronaviruses are named after the crown shape they have. There is a whole family. The World Health Organization has said that several variants of the virus occur periodically throughout the globe, with several versions already circulating in animals without infesting humans.
Coronaviruses tend to transform and evolve, which means that the level of risk they possess can change as they continue to flow from person to person.
8. What is he doing?
Infections appear to cause minor and severe conditions in children, adolescents and young adults, and more severe in the elderly. The first signs are fever, dry cough and fatigue and do not initially manifest as a classic cold.
In severe cases, studies suggest that the virus invades the cells, causing respiratory distress and inflammatory conditions and congestion associated with pneumonia.
Just over half of the patients developed acute respiratory syndrome. In addition, a large number of deaths have been reported for patients with cardiovascular disease.
9. How serious can a new virus be?
There will always be fears when a new pathogen is born in humans because, for the most part, people’s immunity is quite low and there are usually no specific treatments or vaccines.
The new coronaviruses, previously unheard of in humans, are a serious cause for concern because they were not known to trigger complicated epidemics that sicken thousands of people.
10. What do the authorities do?
The Chinese government has declared quarantine in Wuhan and more than 10 cities in the region, with travel restrictions affecting nearly 50 million people.
New hospitals were built in just a few days, accelerating the production of medical equipment. The World Health Organization has declared a state of global emergency, a movement that seeks international mobilization.
Several people accused of having transmitted false information about the epidemic are being charged in several Asian countries. Hong Kong, China’s financial centre, has announced a series of restrictions on travel to mainland China.
The United States, Australia and India have stopped access to non-citizens coming from China, even though the World Health Organization has called these measures “unnecessary”.