Coronavirus, officially named Covid-19, has now infected more than 70,000 people and killed 1,875 across 30 countries and territories. The virus, which started in Wuhan, China, causes severe lung disease and thousands of new cases are being reported each day. But will it become a deadly pandemic which sweeps across the globe?
Since China first announced the outbreak on December 31, 73,439 cases have been recorded, including 1,875 deaths.
The majority of these are in China, however, there has also been five deaths in other countries, one each in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, France and the Philippines.
In total, the fatality rate is currently at 2.3 percent, while the recovery rate so far stands at 17.8 percent.
Of those still infected, 80 percent are in a mild condition, while 11,781 are in a serious or critical condition.
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On Tuesday, it was confirmed that a British couple who have been on a quarantined cruise ship in Japan have tested positive for coronavirus.
Sally and David Abel, from Northamptonshire, are among 74 British nationals on the Diamond Princess, which was quarantined on February 3.
The Foreign Office said it was “working to organise a flight back to the UK” for British nationals and evacuation is expected to take place within the next two to three days.
Japanese authorities said there were 88 new cases of infection on the ship on Tuesday, bringing the total to 542 confirmed cases, which is the largest cluster of cases outside mainland China.
The new strain of coronavirus has reached at least 30 countries or territories including the UK, the US, Malaysia, Australia, Egypt, Sweden and Canada.
The infection has seen global markets struggle, businesses and cruise ship itineraries be interrupted and travel bans be put into force.
The World Health Organization (WHO) last month declared a global emergency, but has said it can be contained and has called on countries to assist in preventing the spread to avoid a global pandemic.
But it is not definitively known if this could be a pandemic or not.
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A pandemic is a disease which spreads globally and kills millions of people.
While the WHO believes the new coronavirus can be maintained, some experts have said it could become a pandemic.
To determine a pandemic two basic questions must be answered:
- How easily does Covid-19 spread from person to person?
- How severe is the virus?
How easily does Covid-19 spread from person to person?
So far, not much is known about how rapidly the disease spreads from person to person.
According to a WHO spokesperson, Tarik Jašarević, as of February 17, the estimates of R0 spread are uniformly above one (meaning the virus is sustaining itself among humans), and most settle around two to 2.5 (meaning each infected person is causing two or 2.5 others to become infected).
This means, the new coronavirus is currently more contagious than seasonal flu at around 1.3 people infected for each case, and may potentially be more contagious than SARS.
Another WHO spokesperson has said that the speed at which the virus spreads is not linked to how sick it can make people.
How severe is coronavirus?
To understand how bad an outbreak could get is to understand the case fatality rate (CFR).
The CFR is essentially the proportion of deaths a disease causes within a group of people who have the disease.
As of Tuesday, the WHO said it does not have enough data outside of China to make a “meaningful comparison on the severity of disease of the case fatality rate”.
According to data published by China’s CDC on February 11, the CFR was 2.3 percent at that time, the majority of which (14.8 percent) were aged 80 and over.
But for reasons currently unknown, the case fatality rate has been much lower outside mainland China.
Only five deaths have been reported outside of China so far.
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