Coronavirus could kill 45 million people and infect more than 60 per cent of the global population if containment methods fail, a top Hong Kong medical official has warned.
Professor Gabriel Leung, chair of public health medicine in the city, also said that even if the death rate reaches just one per cent, the potential spread means it could still kill thousands of people.
With the global population currently at more than 7billion (7,577,130,400), that means that the virus has the potential to infect more than 4billion (4,546,278,240) if Professor Leung is correct and its spread continues to accelerate.
And if one per cent of those people die, that means there will be more than 45million deaths.
However, the number of new cases reported in China each day has begun to level off, declining five out of the last eight days. It doesn’t mean the outbreak has peaked, but is an encouraging sign.
Experts expect that cases will continue to increase overall, and will long be underestimated, because it’s become clear that some patients have only mild symptoms or are asymptomatic.
The hope is that, with both knowledge of and the diagnostic test for coronavirus now more widespread, people are being diagnosed more quickly and moved to isolation to contain the spread, which should help keep infections from reaching their maximum potential.
There are more than 43,000 cases reported in the world so far, with more than 1,100 deaths due to the virus.
But Prof Leung told The Guardian during a visit to London that the priority now is to establish the size and shape of the ‘epidemic iceberg’.
And on Monday, Dr Nancy Messonnier, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases said that she and her agency ‘absolutely assume that the reported cases are an underestimate’ during a National Press Club event.
Most experts believe that each infected person has gone on to transmit the virus to around 2.5 people, giving an ‘attack rate’ of 60 to 80 per cent.
The death rate, however, is thought to be much lower. Professor Leung expects it to be around one per cent once milder cases, that have not been diagnosed, are taken into account.
‘Is 60 to 80 per cent of the world’s population going to get infected?,’ he asked, ‘Maybe not. Maybe this virus will come in waves.
‘Maybe the virus is going to attenuate its lethality because it certainly doesn’t help it if it kills everybody in its path, because it will get killed as well.’
After establishing the epidemic’s scale, he said they would then need to establish whether containment methods being used are effective at stopping the spread of the virus.
The intensity of a outbreak’s spread is based on a measure used by epidemiologists, called R0 – pronounced ‘R naught.’
Japan confirms 39 new cases of coronavirus on cruise ship – bringing total 174 cases
Thirty nine new cases of coronavirus have been confirmed on a cruise ship quarantined at a Japanese port.
The update brings the total found on the Diamond Princess to 174 cases.
The ministry also said the virus was confirmed in a official who participated in the initial quarantine checks the night the ship returned to Yokohama Port near Tokyo on February 3.
The quarantine official is being treated in the hospital.
The new cases bring Japan’s total to 203 people infected by the the new virus, COVID-19.
The night of the ship’s arrival, Japanese health officials began medical checks on all of the ship’s 3,700 passengers and crew after one previous passenger tested positive for the virus.
The U.S.-operated Diamond Princess had completed a 14-day tour during which it stopped at Hong Kong and several other Asian ports before returning to Japan.
Japanese government and tour company officials have said they were notified by Hong Kong that an 80-year-old male passenger who got off the boat there later tested positive for the virus.
It estimates how many people each infected person infects in turn. In the case of the coronavirus epidemic, at number is 2.5 people.
But the actual spread – as opposed to the maximum – fluctuates as more data becomes available and containment methods evolve.
For example, if a wave of new cases were diagnosed today, in people who might have been infected for some time, but were asymptomatic, the spread estimate would increase.
If tomorrow, a higher percentage of those identified as potentially infected were isolated more quickly, it could lower experts’ estimates of the spread.
Predicting the epidemic curve – or progression – of coronavirus can help public health agencies prepare for the worst, and give a rough estimate, but these are notoriously inaccurate to the actual intensity of an outbreak, especially in its earliest days.
Governments worldwide are currently focusing on containment to prevent the spread of the virus but, if it fails, this response will switch to mitigation.
China locked-down cities infected by coronavirus, including Wuhan at the virus’s epicentre, in a desperate effort to stop the disease spreading.
Cruise ships such as the Diamond Princess off the coast of Japan have been isolated after coronavirus cases were identified, and many countries have isolated travellers returning from Wuhan and other areas of China.
There have been allegations that China has not accurately reported the spread of coronavirus and the number of people killed by it, making the virus’s ‘infection iceberg’ harder to figure out.
Wuhan medic Jeisi Luo, not his real name, warned that there are likely many more infections than reported due to limited test kits and the fact that people are dying before they are diagnosed.
‘When preliminary tests determine that a patient has a lung sickness, the nucleic acid test which detects the virus, cannot always be carried out because the waiting list is too long,’ he said. ‘The patient is therefore not diagnosed.’
Medics are instead dealing with the crisis by sending people home with medicine and advising them to ‘self-isolate’.
Social media reports have also alleged that China’s body burning facilities in Wuhan are working flat out, suggesting that the death toll from the virus may be significantly higher than the country has reported.