Wuhan coronavirus looks increasingly like a pandemic, experts say |
Feb. 3, 2020
The New York Times – Rapidly rising caseloads alarm researchers, who fear the virus may make its way across the globe. But scientists cannot yet predict how many deaths may result.
Medical workers transporting a coronavirus patient into an isolation ward in Fuyang, China, on Saturday. Experts fear a coronavirus pandemic, but its severity is uncertain.
The Wuhan coronavirus spreading from China is now likely to become a pandemic that circles the globe, according to many of the world’s leading infectious disease experts.
The prospect is daunting. A pandemic — an ongoing epidemic on two or more continents — may well have global consequences, despite the extraordinary travel restrictions and quarantines now imposed by China and other countries, including the United States.
Scientists do not yet know how lethal the new coronavirus is, however, so there is uncertainty about how much damage a pandemic might cause. But there is growing consensus that the pathogen is readily transmitted between humans.
The Wuhan coronavirus is spreading more like influenza, which is highly transmissible, than like its slow-moving viral cousins, SARS and MERS, scientists have found.
“It’s very, very transmissible, and it almost certainly is going to be a pandemic,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. But will it be catastrophic? I don’t know.”
In the last three weeks, the number of lab-confirmed cases has soared from about 50 in China to more than 17,000 in at least 23 countries; there have been more than 360 deaths.
But various epidemiological models estimate that the real number of cases is 100,000 or even more. While that expansion is not as rapid as that of flu or measles, it is an enormous leap beyond what virologists saw when SARS and MERS emerged.
When SARS was vanquished in July 2003 after spreading for nine months, only 8,098 cases had been confirmed. MERS has been circulating since 2012, but there have been only about 2,500 known cases … Read more.
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