Less than three months after an official announcement of an outbreak, coronavirus or Covid-19 steadily marches to new destinations threatening more lives. Although China recently attempted to ease a lockdown in Wuhan, the country officials had to reverse the course.
The spread of the outbreak is immense, affecting about 79,000 people and killing at least 2,623 people worldwide. The map below, presented by the New York Times, shows only China and neighboring countries, but the dynamics is alarming.
The outbreak continues spreading across the globe with new cases of infection and deaths. As of Monday, coronavirus killed 12 people in Iran. The New York Times refers to state television that reports “the largest number of coronavirus-linked deaths outside China.” As a result, Pakistan and Turkey close their borders with Iran on Sunday. Due to travelling to Tehran, the first Bahraini citizen was reported to be infected. The same reason was the cause to three cases reported in Kuwait. Not long time ago the situation was under control and then suddenly the state officials declared on Saturday that 43 people appeared to be positive and there were 8 deaths. Now, a couple of days later, the death toll has reached the number of 12 people and some experts even assume that the real number is higher than 50 deaths. Given this tendency, the country may face a significant outbreak.
Another alarming tendency is traced in South Korea. As of Monday, Covid-19 has been found in 833 cases, including 231 found on Monday. Having announced the highest level of alert, President Moon Jae-in is forced, if necessary, to totally lock down cities and citizens in order to slow down the outbreak. For now the most infected city Daegu is considered open and people can enter and leave it.
The first European outbreak of Covid-19 is reported in Italy. As of Monday, there are 152 cases of infected people compared to only three on Thursday. A sizeable cluster of the deadly infection is found in the northern Lombardy region, where more than 50,000 people will be locked down in 10 towns. Such harsh measures are necessary due to the peculiarity of the European Union with its free borders. Italian neighbors pay a close attention to development of the situation within this region. Police and armed forces enforce preventive and restrictive measures controlling mobility of people across municipalities. In addition, the officials closed schools and cancelled mass sports and entertainment events. In particular, the last two days of the Venice carnival will not take place.
The virus spreads and the consequences can be dramatic. More than 30 countries across the globe report an increasing number of infected individuals. Business Insider emphasizes that “the coronavirus may run rampant in some countries least prepared to deal with it. If that happens experts say the virus could become endemic.” Emily Ricotta, a research fellow at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, states that some countries do not have a preparedness plan for outbreaks and funding to tackle the problem. In particular, screening and isolating are the primary measures, and some countries do not have equipment or trained personnel. Similar case was Ebola in Liberia. While the country was funded to take appropriate measures, it eventually could not do without international intervention.
Regarding Covid-19, the outbreak has not reached a pandemic state, but the situation may come down to it. The WHO highlights that pandemic outbreak means sustained transmission from human to human in numerous locations. For now, “sustainability” is seen in China with relatively negligible potential of transmission in other countries. Specialist cannot predict where the places of uncontrolled outbreaks would be. Keiji Fukuda, the director and clinical professor at the School of Public Health at The University of Hong Kong, can only claim that crowded places represent bigger threat. In addition, Robert Kim-Farley, a professor at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, makes another obvious prediction that poorer and more densely populated countries are more prone to mass infection. What makes the situation worse is the nature of virus and inability to detect the disease before unaware individual contacts with other people.
The experts would like to cheer up the global population, but the dynamics does not allow making any positive projections about coronavirus. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had to admit, “We still have a chance to contain it. But while doing that, we have to prepare at the same time for any eventualities, because this outbreak could go any direction. It could even be messy”.
WHO ARE THE VICTIMS OF CORONAVIRUS?
Nina Shapiro, contributor for Forbes, investigates the peculiarities of Covid-19 and presents some useful data to better understand the nature of the disease and the outbreak in general. According to the report, age makes a difference when speaking about the number of deadly outcomes. Almost 15% of all deaths were patients over 80. By contrast, of over 400 cases of infected children aged 0-9, there were no deaths at all. In addition, while over 550 cases of coronavirus were found in children and adolescents between 10 and 19, no more than one child died. At the same time, virus is variable and chooses the weakest, therefore, “if the population is young but malnourished, then severe disease might occur much more frequently in comparison with health young groups,” Keiji Fukuda, the director and clinical professor at the School of Public Health at The University of Hong Kong, tells to Business Insider.
Another important factor is co-morbidity. Those patients who have serious health problems, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or cancer, are more likely to face more severe consequences when infected with Covid-19. The statistics shows that individuals with co-morbidity died in 5-10% of cases, while those who did not have any medical condition (about 15,000) are reported to have mortality rate of lower than 1%.
Good news is that the overall mortality dynamics decreases comparing January and February. Among those who fell ill before January 10, 2020, mortality was shocking with about 15%. After February 1, 2020, people continue to become sick with a much lower mortality rate falling to as low as 1% of deaths. This might be the result of greater awareness in people and earlier detection with immediate interventions. Finally, there is good news for women and not as good for men. While the ratio between infected men and women is almost equal, the mortality rate among them significantly differs with 2.8% and 1.7%, respectively. Despite clinical trials to better understand the nature of the difference in data, experiments on mice did not show that male species were more prone to fatal consequences. The specialists assume that gender differences in habits and lifestyle may cast the light on this problem. First of all, smoking can play a significant role as a co-morbidity factor. Speaking about Chinese, half of men are smokers, while only 2% of women smoke. In addition, women tend to wash hands and use soap more often than men, which partially enhances risks.
Meanwhile, there are cases when young and healthy doctors were infected and died. David Heymann, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, commented the situation for The Guardian, “This is a new disease in humans, so no-one has immunity– health workers, like everyone else, don’t have immunity.” Obviously, clinical staff has higher chances to be infected because of more frequent exposure to the disease despite the preventive measures. The chances rise along with lower immune activity due to stress, tiredness, and long work hours.
Researchers seek medical solutions to find the cure for coronavirus, but the first results may be seen only in three or four months. The World Health Organization director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, sees the potential in two HIV drugs and an antiviral drug remdesivir, which is used to fight Ebola. As the results are not yet to come, people of the world cannot count on any medical interventions to fight the unknown. In particular, the virus is more dangerous than flu and comparison is irrelevant. The unknown in the case of Covid-19 is the source and its nature. The virus is believed to come from bats that passed it on to other animals and then to humans. Moreover, it is impossible to make any predictions about the future of the virus, whether it is going to mutate and become deadlier than it is. The future is unknown.