Will The Deadly ‘Mutating’ Coronavirus Outbreak Infect the United States?

Previous coronaviruses, like SARS, infected scores of people in the United States and killed 44 in Canada. Will the new 'mutating' virus be equally deadly?
Posted in: Headlines
Published:
January 22, 2020 10:40 AM UTC
  • China’s coronavirus has killed nine and infected more than 440. It has terrifying  similarities to the deadly 2003 SARS outbreak.
  • The virus reached the United States on Tuesday, infecting a man in Seattle.
  • Health experts are worried the pandemic will spread globally, but what measures are in place to slow it down?

A deadly ‘mutating’ coronavirus has ravaged Chinese cities and infected the first US citizen in Seattle. If it follows the pattern of previous similar outbreaks, the virus may infect many more in the United States.

Experts confirmed on Tuesday that the deadly outbreak is contagious and a Seattle man in his 30s was the first to bring the virus to American soil. The outbreak, which has killed nine and infected more than 440, can pass from human-to-human. Experts have drawn parallels to the deadly SARS outbreak in 2003.

“US health officials are concerned this rapid spread could mimic the massive SARS outbreak of the early 2000s which resulted in 774 deaths in 29 countries” – CBS reporter in Wuhan.

The coronavirus began in Wuhan, before spreading to larger Chinese cities, followed by neighboring countries. Source: BBC

The coronavirus reportedly emerged from a seafood market in Wuhan, China. Cases have since been reported in Japan, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines and now America. The panic initially sent global stock markets spinning downwards.

A global pandemic is now possible. The World Health Organization has officially warned countries to “be ready” for a pandemic. The question is: will it spread through the United States? How scared should you be?

The coronavirus could spread through the United States

The coronavirus has eerie similarities to global pandemics of the past and may follow a similar pattern. However, authorities are doing everything they can to contain the virus after it reached U.S. shores. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said this “isn’t a moment of high anxiety.”

This is a low risk. It appears to have a transmission vector that really should not prevent anyone from going anywhere in Snohomish County, except maybe the isolation ward at the hospital.

The man is in isolation and the CDC is tracking down any individual that came into contact with him.

So, how does this compare to the SARS outbreak? According to the CDC, the SARS outbreak spread through America in as little as four months. The first case was reported in China in November 2002. By March 2003, 39 cases were reported in the United States.

The rapid global spread of SARS in 2003, which reached the U.S. in four months. Source: National Science Foundation

The virus was ultimately contained in the U.S. with no deaths. But Canada was a different story. 250 cases of SARS were reported, with a total of 44 deaths.

The virus spread could be worse than reported

Five major U.S. airports are now screening passengers arriving from Wuhan, China. Officials at Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and Atlanta are testing arrivals for signs of the coronavirus.

Checks include a questionnaire and temperature checks. But the virus presents as a common cold and may have a long incubation period. So there is a fear that some carriers may be under-reporting their symptoms.

“Far more people are actually effected than we know” – Internal medicine specialist, speaking on CBS.

Coronavirus outbreak on ‘level 2’ alert

The CDC has marked the outbreak at ‘level 2,’ advising travellers to “practice enhanced precautions” and “avoid animals (alive or dead), animal markets, and contact with sick people.” The alert was moved up from level 1 yesterday after the virus reached America. The CDC has not yet advised citizens to avoid travel to Wuhan.

I don’t think looking at what we know so far that this it on the scale of SARS and MERS, the two most significant coronavirus outbreaks that we know from history” – Dr. Amesh Adalja, Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security

The good news is authorities have moved to contain the virus faster than 2003’s SARS outbreak. It’s also less aggressive than previous outbreaks, but reports are picking up pace.

This article was edited by Samburaj Das for CCN.com. If you see a breach of our Code of Ethics or Rights and Duties of the Editor, or find a factual, spelling, or grammar error, please contact us and we will look at it as soon as possible.

Last modified: June 24, 2020 1:05 AM UTC

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Ben Brown @_ben_brown

Ben is a journalist with a decade of experience covering financial markets. Based in London, UK, his writing has appeared in The Huffington Post and he was Chief Editor at Block Explorer, the world's longest-running source of Blockchain data. Reach him at benjamin-brown.uk or on Twitter at _Ben_Brown. Email ben @ benjamin-brown.uk.

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