In epidemiology, the basic reproduction number or basic reproductive ratio (R0) of an infection is the average number of new cases generated by a given case over the infectious period. If we apply the most recent R0 to the coronavirus, we obtain a figure that ranges between 3.30 and 5.47, according to this analysis, we can be in front of a high worrying value.
This means that each person who is ill from the virus can infect between 3 and 5 healthy people and the virus can spread in this way in an exponential manner, which can become a cause for concern.
And this metric (the R0) can be used to determine when an infectious disease may lead to an epidemic outbreak that may become a threat.
Caution with Coronavirus numbers
However, more time and more data may be needed to calculate the exact coronavirus R0, but if this estimate is correct, then we are facing a fairly high value.
It is important to note that the data provided so far should be taken with caution because they are based so far on the first study that quantifies the number of baseline reproductions in the early phase of the disease, taking into account the impact of variations in the disease reporting rate in mainland China from 10 to 21 January 2020.
In addition, another important factor to consider is the virulence, which although it is high in the sense that the virus can easily infect many people, the mortality rate is not very high. In a few days there will be more data and that will be enough to make more accurate estimates of the infestation capacity of the virus and that will depend a lot on the number of total cases that are counted and that are constantly varying, as we can see in the following interactive map.
Current reports suggest that the new coronavirus has a variable incubation period (1-14 days) and may also have pre-contagious symptoms. This may make it more difficult to contain than SARS, a coronavirus that caused the SARS epidemic that emerged in 2003 in Southeast Asian countries.
China’s coronavirus, which has caused an outbreak of pneumonia, has already left at least 80 people dead and health authorities have raised the number of people infected to more than 7,500. Most of the cases are concentrated in the city of Wuhan (Hubei Province), but the virus has left China and has already reached countries such as Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Nepal and the United States. And according to the latest reports, the virus is known to have already made its appearance in Europe with three cases reported in France.
However, despite all this, we should not be alarmed. Pessimists have been wiping out humanity with pandemics, cataclysms and catastrophes of all kinds, and yet the human beings we are still here on this planet, and we will surely be here for many more years to come.
To trust that medical science will manage to stop the advance of this virus as it has done so many times with so many other diseases, is the best way to see everything with optimism.
While this new virus can spread easily (as seen so far), it is also true that it is not considered a lethal virus for humans (there are others much more dangerous), especially when is detected in the earliest stages of development. In short, the battle is just beginning and we humans will surely be victorious once again.