The world may be in the early stages of a pandemic, as the coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2 spreads around the world, causing an illness called COVID-19. The number of newly reported cases in China is beginning to fall, and the number of infections outside of China is still relatively small, the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) noted. However, WHO is concerned about cases of the illness with no clear link to other infections.
While the director-general of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that a reported reduction in new coronavirus cases in China was good news, he added that “It is far too early to make predictions about this outbreak.”
This coronavirus is also far less deadly than others. Other outbreak-causing coronaviruses SARS and MERS had fatality rates of about 14 and 35 percent, respectively. With current data, it seems that SARS-CoV-2 is fatal to around two percent of those infected; around 80 percent of those infected have mild symptoms like a cough, severe disease like pneumonia occurs in around 14 percent of cases and in about 5 percent of infected individuals, organ failure and septic shock can occur.
Last Friday only 31 new cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection occurred outside of Hubei province, seen as the epicenter of the epidemic. That is the lowest number reported since officials began collecting data in China last month. However, other findings may have made the situation more complex; it took one man a suspected 27 days before his symptoms appeared, which is far longer than the fourteen-day incubation period that had been presumed. Another person in China that did not show any symptoms traveled 400 miles to visit family members that were then infected.
“Our biggest concern continues to be the potential for COVID-19 to spread in countries with weaker health systems,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. The agency has called for $675 million to aid the most vulnerable countries, with thirteen African countries that have links to China seen as a priority.
There are several other countries that are now struggling to stop the spread of the virus within their borders. In South Korea, alert levels have been raised as the number of confirmed cases continues to rise; more than 600 people are now infected and six have died there. The country is facing "a grave turning point," said President Moon Jae-in. The next few days will be pivotal for their citizens.
There are a growing number of cases in Italy as twelve towns have been shut down - around 50,000 people cannot enter or leave a sealed area without special permission, and events like the Venice Carnival have been canceled in an attempt to contain the outbreak. Two deaths have already occurred, and there are more than 130 confirmed cases in the country, with 88 of them in a region called Lombardy. "The contagiousness of this virus is very strong and pretty virulent," said the health chief of Lombardy, Giulio Gallera.
Italian authorities thought they traced the infections to a patient zero, but the man tested negative. They also noted that the virus is not lethal, but it is dangerous for those who have preexisting health conditions.
Meanwhile in Iran, the government warned that the coronavirus may now be in "all cities." Fourteen provinces have closed schools, universities, and cultural centers starting today.
The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci, told Axios that this outbreak might now be "at the brink" of a global pandemic.