The Lancet, one of the most prestigious medical journals globally, released a study estimating the total number of individuals affected by coronavirus. Astonishingly, the journal says more than 75,800 people have been infected in Wuhan, China alone.
The study’s researchers got their numbers by evaluating large data sets from the Official Aviation Guide and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study found that 75,815 individuals were infected in Wuhan as of January 25 [The Lancet], with the epidemic doubling in just 6.4 days.
In our baseline scenario, we estimated that the basic reproductive number for 2019-nCoV was 2·68 (95% CrI 2·47–2·86) and that 75 815 individuals (95% CrI 37 304–130 330) have been infected in Wuhan as of Jan 25, 2020. The epidemic doubling time was 6·4 days (95% CrI 5·8–7·1).
Considering the large number of people that left Wuhan to other major cities like Chongqing and Beijing, the researchers predicted that major Chinese population centers could be affected by the coronavirus outbreak within one to two weeks.
Official reports placed the number of individuals that left Wuhan to nearby countries like Thailand, Japan and South Korea at around 40,000.
The researchers explained:
We estimated that in the baseline scenario, Chongqing, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen had imported 461 (95% CrI 227–805), 113 (57–193), 98 (49–168), 111 (56–191), and 80 (40–139) infections from Wuhan, respectively.
If the transmissibility of 2019-nCoV were similar everywhere domestically and over time, we inferred that epidemics are already growing exponentially in multiple major cities of China with a lag time behind the Wuhan outbreak of about 1–2 weeks.”
The number of affected individuals in Wuhan who traveled to other major cities is higher than expected.
Although Hong Kong University has come up with a vaccine for coronavirus, the institution said it could take over a year for it to be tested and ready for use.
If more than 75,800 individuals are already affected in Wuhan, and the virus is anticipated to reach its peak by April to May, the potential size of the pandemic could be much worse than initially feared.
According to a report from The Washington Post, unlike previous virus outbreaks like SARS in 2003, the Chinese government tried to keep coronavirus under control. At the same time, the government was criticized for failing to inform locals and citizens before the virus started to spread exponentially.
The mayor of Wuhan, for instance, took responsibility for this failure and offered to resign.
Even after the coronavirus outbreak was largely publicized, five million people are believed to have left the city before the official lock down was put into place.
Now, with studies claiming the number of individuals affected by coronavirus are in the tens of thousands, the pandemic could experience rapid growth in the very near term.
This article was edited by Sam Bourgi.