We get coronaviruses all the time, including the common cold and even the flu, which are generally more annoying than dangerous.
But three times in recent history, coronaviruses have become deadly, global threats: SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in 2003, MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) in 2012, and the newest coronavirus out of Wuhan, China.
5 cases of the new coronavirus have made their way to four US states (AZ, CA, IL, WA) as of January 27, 2020.
Overall, as of January 27, the new coronavirus has infected about 4500 people and caused at least 106 deaths, which is about a 2% mortality rate. These numbers will increase.
- By comparison, the “regular” or “seasonal” flu has a mortality rate a little under 1% and probably causes about 400,000 deaths each year globally.
- SARS, a coronavirus that emerged in 2003, killed more than 10% of patients, which was about 774 people.
Geek out on SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus here.
Screening for the new coronavirus is difficult: do clinics, hospitals and doctors order tests when a patient presents with simply a cough and fever? If they do–as they have in Wuhan–while the patient waits for results, how much does that overload of sick patients, waiting in close proximity in a clinic, contribute to the spread of the disease?
Worse, there have been several cases of the new coronavirus that have started off with no fever. China’s health minister also reports it can be spread before symptoms appear, although US experts have not confirmed this.
no vaccines exist for the new coronavirus
Vaccines require research, and some research on coronaviruses has been controversial.
Viruses have been developed with enhanced abilities–like superbugs, that could either accidentally or intentionally cause a global pandemic of epoch proportions. Should this research be conducted? Laura and Tim debate it here.