The coronavirus may be taking a higher toll of life than we thought, say scientists, in a new study published on January 30, 2020, in The Lancet . But another startling new study based on mathematical modeling, published in the same journal, predicts that almost 76,000 people may have acquired the infection in Wuhan city, and that multiple epidemics in major connected cities inside and outside China may already be brewing. Yet the death rate is markedly low, in this case.
The novel coronavirus 2019 (2019-nCov) that caused an outbreak in Wuhan city, Hubei province, China, has now spread to 25 countries including ones as far away as Australia and the USA, revealing, among other things, the power of globalization to spread other things than technology. At present, over 425 people havedied from the infection. The study
The researchers in the first study looked at a single group of people who had been treated in an isolation facility at Jinyintan hospital over the period between January 1 and January 20, 2020. All of them had originally been seen and treated at other hospitals in Wuhan. Over 2 out of 3 people in this group were men. Their ages varied from 21 to 82 years.
About 50 percent of the group had been exposed to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, the place where the initial animal-to-human spread is thought to have occurred. The vast majority were working at the market. Only 2 were shoppers. Huanan seafood market. Image Credit: Pikitia / Shutterstock Mortality – low or high?
In this study, 11 patients died, and 32 were discharged. Obviously, the mortality rate goes far above the early estimate of 2 to 3 percent supplied by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Moreover, the rate of death might go higher since most patients are still in hospital. The cause of death is acute respiratory distress syndrome caused by severe inflammation of the lungs, septic shock caused by overwhelming bacterial presence in the circulation leading to the fatal breakdown of multiple organs simultaneously.
The earlier epidemic caused by the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) had a mortality rate of 10 percent but the MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) claimed the lives of 34% of its victims.
The current virus appeared to spread much more easily and quickly than the above viruses, but to be less deadly. Many experts in public health think the current findings don’t change that view. One major reason: the mortality reported in this group is that of a selected group of patients who might have been referred to that hospital simply because they were already sicker than others. And therefore, according to US epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding, “The total per cent case fatality is likely lower because (a) lot of infected patients with less severe symptoms might not be in this hospital pool.”
A second telling reason for scepticism is the small number of the sample. And thirdly, over 30 percent of patients were discharged within 2 weeks, leading, reasonably enough, to the assumption that they were recovered. High-risk group
Over two-thirds of patients were men, as with the earlier SARS and MERS epidemics. The researchers say: “The reduced susceptibility of females to viral infections could be attributed to the protection from X chromosome and sex hormones, which play an important role in innate and adaptive immunity.” In other words, women just don’t get sick with this virus as easily as men do, it appears.
Again, about half of these patients were also suffering from chronic disease, such as heart disease and diabetes. Some, including the first two patients to die, were healthy but had a history of long-term smoking.
In short, the risk of infection with the 2019-nCov virus is highest in older men who have existing health problems. However, at least 5 people who were healthy and only in their fifties, and one who was only 36, have died of this infection, and the reasons are still not clear. Modeling research shows high case load
Over 20,000 people have now caught the virus. All the deaths reported so far have been in China. The WHO has declared this a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC. This includes, in part, answering 2 or more of the following questions in the affirmative: Related Stories
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