Coronavirus and SARS are two viruses in the same family and both can cause fever and pneumonia. It is therefore useful to compare the pneumonia caused by this new virus with SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), which infected more than 8000 people during a global outbreak that began in 2003 and fortunately was able to be stopped in time, before it managed to spread more widely around the world .
So far, this new Coronavirus appears to have a lower mortality rate than its predecessor SARS. Based on the number of cases and deaths reported, the rate appears to be about 2.8 percent, compared to a rate of 9.6 percent for SARS. But while the Coronavirus is a much more “benign” virus, it is spreading much more rapidly.
First outbreaks of Coronavirus
As expected, we are still in the early stages of this new disease, and it is still too early for humanity to know for sure what kind of threat it is facing.
What is most striking about this new virus is undoubtedly its ability to spread very quickly, much faster than SARS could. SARS took several months to cause 1,000 cases of infected people, unlike this coronavirus that has already infected 3,000 people in about three weeks.
The SARS outbreak ended in 2004; and no more cases have been reported since then. Health agencies controlled the virus by isolating infected people, but such measures will be more difficult with a virus that can be transmitted before symptoms appear.
There is also a possibility that the virus may mutate and become more contagious or deadly. So far, however, this new virus appears to be fairly stable.
The WHO (World Health Organization) has self-corrected its rating of the risk level of the Chinese coronavirus: it has raised it from “moderate” to “high”, but this correction does not change the fact that the WHO does not consider the epidemic to be a “public health emergency of international concern”. So far, WHO has used this term only in rare cases of epidemics that require a major global response, including H1N1 swine flu in 2009, Ebola hemorrhagic fever in 2014 and zika virus in 2016.
In short, this Chinese Coronavirus virus differs from SARS in that
- It has a lower mortality rate.
- It spread much more quickly.
- Symptoms take longer to appear and therefore it is more difficult to detect infected people.
- There is a possibility that it may mutate into something completely different.
It is still too early for the world to be alarmed, however, and we should not let down our guard, for example in cases such as the “super spreader“: a patient who has transmitted the coronavirus to at least 16 health workers.
Finally, the question that almost nobody asks is: what causes new diseases to appear periodically in recent times that, if not properly controlled, can put all of humanity at risk?
It seems that so far, no one has yet a convincing answer to this question.