Is it time to panic? The public needs answers as cases of the coronavirus soar past 11,000 with the death toll rising by the day.
Entire cities under quarantine, mass evacuations, bodies in the streets — This doesn’t sound like the modern age. The 2020 decade has started with a plague reminiscent of centuries past. And as confirmed cases of the Wuhan coronavirus soar past 11,000, the world isn’t ready — no matter what our leaders tell us.
Recent data now puts confirmed cases of Wuhan coronavirus, provisionally known as 2019-nCov, at 11,374 [Johns Hopkins data] with 259 fatalities. Cases have been found in 27 countries with more being added by the day.
Hubei province, home of the city of Wuhan, remains the epicenter of the 2019-nCoV outbreak. The central Chinese city is the site of 7,153 confirmed coronavirus cases with 249 of the 259 confirmed deaths. Zhejiang, in Eastern China, south of Shanghai, is the second hardest-hit area with 537 cases.
Hong Kong, ground zero of the devastating 2003 SARS epidemic, is surprisingly spared with only 13 cases out of its 7.3 million population.
With coronavirus cases reaching 7 in the United States, the American government has issued stern travel warnings advising American citizens not to travel to China [travel.state.gov]. Unless the virus is currently spreading undetected, the United States should be able to control 2019-nCoV by restricting contact with China.
Nations that share land borders or close sea borders with China won’t be so lucky.
Russia has already reported several coronavirus cases just days after closing its land border with China. Japan, Thailand, and South Korea are all seeing increasing numbers of cases. And they may be too economically intertwined with China to prevent the coronavirus from spreading in their populations if the Chinese government can’t get the disease under control.
While official data paints a somewhat mild view of the Wuhan coronavirus, independent research paints a much more dismal picture. According to The Lancet, a peer-reviewed medical journal, coronavirus infections may be as high as 75,800 in Wuhan China alone. Such a figure could put global cases in the hundreds of thousands.
The report backs up its claims with several assumptions about the epidemic’s doubling period and transmissibility.
A notable prediction reads:
“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).”
Furthermore, the report revealed:
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.
If the Lancet’s model is accurate, and Coronavirus cases are over 75,000, that would suggest the disease is not as deadly as currently assumed. However, that doesn’t explain the bodies in the streets. The public needs more information. Leaders, give us answers before you tell us not to panic.
This article was edited by Samburaj Das.
Last modified: February 1, 2020 12:14 PM UTC