The coronavirus outbreak has been compared to the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic of 2002-2003 for obvious reasons. Both diseases originated in China, are caused by a similar virus and are believed to have originated in wild animal markets. However, new data released this weekend reveal that coronavirus has now killed more people than SARS.
On Sunday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that 812 people had died from coronavirus in China, surpassing the deaths caused by SARS nearly two decades ago. SARS affected 8,098 people worldwide and killed 774, according to the Centres for Disease Control. Currently, there are 37,558 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide. Of those cases, 37,251 are in China, which is the region that has reported nearly all of the coronavirus deaths.
In its Situation Report, WHO states that only one person has died from coronavirus outside of China.
But the deaths caused by each disease aren’t the only difference. Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, director of Columbia University’s Centre for Infection and Immunity, told the Wall Street Journal that coronavirus has a mortality rate, which refers to the number of people who die from the disease, of about 2 per cent. SARS had a mortality rate of roughly 10 per cent.
Additionally, coronavirus appears to be highly transmissible. SARS infected 8,098 people over a eight-month period in 2002-2003. Coronavirus, on the other hand, has infected 37,558 individuals in the roughly two months since the first case was diagnosed in Wuhan, the city where the disease was first detected.
In recent days, the number of new coronavirus cases in the Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital city, has stabilised. However, WHO officials are urging people not to read too much into the positive news, as these outbreaks are unpredictable.
“We have to understand it with caution because it can show stability for a few days and then they can shoot up,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director general. “I’ve said it many times: It’s slow now, but it may accelerate.”
Meanwhile, in China, the Wall Street Journal reports that local Chinese governments far from the Hubei province, the centre of the outbreak, are taking drastic measures to isolate their residents. Some have banned people without local residency papers from entering their cities, while others are only giving one person per household permission to leave their houses every few days to buy necessities.
This week will be an important week for China, as many people will return to the workplace. Chinese officials extended the Lunar New Year holiday to Feb. 2 to help contain the outbreak and kept most businesses closed afterwards.