Coronavirus, which has caused one of the worst virus outbreaks in recent history, missed the golden window of containment says China’s top virologist Yi Guan. In 2003, the global SARS outbreak led to 774 deaths with 8,098 affected.
According to a report from am730, the third biggest newspaper in Hong Kong, Guan said that the “probable scale of a full outbreak can reach at least [ten] times that of SARS.”
Guan was ranked as the top 11 microbiologist in the world by Thomson Reuters and played a key role in finding the source of the SARS virus.
China has already locked down ten cities, containing up to 40 million local residents to prevent the virus outbreak from worsening. Residents in the following cities have been restricted from traveling outside of the region:
Yet, the Chinese government is facing backlash over weak virus screening. One woman from Wuhan allegedly took medicine to lessen her fever to surpass screening at Wuhan to travel to Paris, France.
The virus has already spread to nearby countries including Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and Taiwan.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of South Korea reported that two patients have been confirmed to have coronavirus. On Friday, the government said it stopped an individual suspected to have coronavirus symptoms after flying in from Wuhan.
Despite the lockdown in major Chinese cities, individuals with coronavirus symptoms flew out of the region to neighboring countries.
With the golden window of containment already having been missed, weak screening and lockdown could potentially cause the virus outbreak to intensify.
Guan warned that any virus often takes two to three months to see peak strength, and this is only just the beginning.
The am730 report citing Guan read:
The key now is containment, but Yi Guan feared the authorities have missed the golden window of doing so. The cost of containment will escalate dramatically, as the virus usually takes 2-3 months to reach peak strength. If so, we are just eeing the early/mild stage and mortaily could potentially increase from here.
Vineet Menachery, a virologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch, told The Scientist that the speed in which Chinese scientists were able to obtain and publish the virus sequences is “an amazing feat.”
He said that when the SARS outbreak happened, virologists didn’t know for months until the virus spread widely.
Other scientists including University of Washington’s Alex Greninger said the virus itself is less severe than SARS. Still, it’s too early to determine whether the impact of the virus will be larger than the SARS outbreak 17 years ago.
Scientists are currently theorizing that the virus spread from bats to snakes then to humans, causing irregularities in the lungs.
This article was edited by Sam Bourgi.