After only two months, the Wuhan coronavirus has already claimed more lives than the infamous 2003 SARS epidemic. There have already been over 35,000 confirmed cases, and over 800 fatalities, two of which were outside of China.
Media reports are ablaze with information about the novel coronavirus, and misconceptions are becoming as viral as the virus itself. But despite exaggerated claims, this is certainly not an outbreak that should be treated lightly.
In 2003, 774 people were killed by SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in over 20 countries. SARS was also caused by a coronavirus, like this outbreak, but it had a very different profile.
SARS affected “only” 8,437 people — but it killed 10% of them. It had a much higher fatality rate compared to this outbreak, which seems to hover around 2% (and it is quite possible that there are more cases than the confirmed ones, which would bring the fatality rate lower). A fatality rate of 2% is still high — for comparison, influenza kills around 2 people out of 100,000, a rate 1,000 times lower.
But the coronavirus is dangerous in other ways. Most notably, it’s far more contagious.
So far, China’s Hubei province is still the epicenter of the outbreak. In Hubei, 780 of the total 813 fatalities have been reported; on Saturday alone, the virus claimed 81 lives.
According to oFficials, at least 288 other cases of the virus have been reported across the world.
However, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that the last four days had witnessed “some stabilizing” in Hubei. The WHO has declared the coronavirus a public health emergency but refused to classify it as a pandemic, citing that the virus is not currently spreading outside of China.
China’s harsh approach might be paying dividends. In response to the outbreak, the government essentially sealed off Wuhan
In response to the outbreak, the Chinese government sealed Wuhan, the city in which the outbreak originated, in late January. This took a severe toll on the city’s 12 million inhabitants, who find it difficult to obtain the necessary goods for day to day survival.
However, this approach might have also backfired. According to Wuhan’s mayor, over 5 million people have left the city as the quarantine was imposed.