Initial concerns about the coronavirus related its growth to SARS and other Asian outbreaks, but those expectations have long been surpassed. At the moment, there are known cases in 37 countries, compared to the 29 countries which saw SARS infections; there are 79,331 known cases, compared to the 8,096 SARS cases; and there are 2,618 deaths, as opposed to the 774 dead during the SARS outbreak (numbers from World Heath Organization.)
The SARS outbreak lasted from November, 2002 through July, 2003. The Covid-19 outbreak is barely two months old.
The fatality rate for the Covid-19 coronavirus is currently less than 2%… but that only tells part of the story. At issue is the mechanism by which the virus operates. It attacks the respiratory system slowly, then shifts to an aggressive state where organ failure is fairly likely if treatment is not provided. Thankfully, treatment is not especially complex and is possible for most health systems.
Unfortunately, the virus transfers fairly easily from host to host and has a reasonably long period before symptoms manifest… and, after symptoms are seen, a period of time where they seem mild. This dramatically increases the transmission rate, and therefore the amount of people who require treatment. After the available facilities are in use, the fatality rate can be expected to increase.
This is the situation now seen in Iran, which has quietly taken the position of having the second most deadly outbreak of the disease. While South Korea has seen more cases, there have been only ten deaths so far. Iran’s outbreak deaths range in number from 50, publicly stated by an official from the city of Qom, to the 15 that deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi announced to the press yesterday. During Harirchi’s press conference, he assured the reporters that all was under control in Iran. Today, their health ministry reports that Harirchi has tested positive for the virus.
Italy, meanwhile, is the European center for the disease, although many other nations have seen isolated cases. Two cities in Northern Italy, Lombardy and Veneto, have been blockaded by the police and military with only monitored, disinfected trucks being allowed through with necessary supplies. Reported cases in those areas continue to rise, and the death toll currently matches the ten of South Korea.
The Diamond Princess cruise ship off of the coast of Japan is demonstrating the difficulty of containing the virus. Even though it is theoretically a closed system, with nobody able to leave or enter, at least one case has arisen of a passenger who tested negative at the end of a quarantine later testing positive, and eight health officials who worked on the ship to support the quarantine testing positive… all of whom had been allowed to return to work and daily routines, and who may have triggered new lines of infection.
As noted in Tiff’s daily tweet roundup, there is contention regarding the Presidential response to the coronavirus spread. The official recommendation for many has been for people who may have been exposed to self-quarantine, and as yet the CDC indicates there have been only 14 confirmed cases initially reported the United States: 12 from travelers to China and another two who experienced person-to-person transmission. There are another 39 people who have tested positive and have subsequently been repatriated to the United States either from China or the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Due to the delay in symptom manifestation, it is uncertain how many others may currently be infected but not yet showing signs.