More than 126,000 people globally have now been confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus, out of whom 67,000 have recovered, and more than 4,600 have died, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
Clinicians got better at treating people with the disease
During the first wave of infections in Wuhan, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed data from 44,672 people who had the virus. This research showed that 80.9% of patients experienced mild symptoms, 13.8% required hospitalization and experienced severe symptoms, and 4.7% were critical cases requiring intensive care.
Chinese medical authorities appeared to get better at treating infections and preventing death as the outbreak proceeded. “Even the first and hardest-hit province, Hubei, saw its death rate tumble as public health measures were strengthened and clinicians got better at identifying and treating people with the disease,” Vox’s Julia Belluz explains.
Coronavirus around the world
Although Covid-19 has spread to 116 countries, the vast majority of cases have been confirmed in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province in China, where the pandemic originated. Taken with the 110,000 cases in Italy, Iran and South Korea, this amounts to 87% of cases in total.
The rate of infection in Italy has been observed to be similar to that of Hubei. The extraordinary efforts of the Chinese state to contain the virus seem to have slowed the spread of the disease in a population used to authoritarian government. Italy’s government has ordered all shops, bars, and restaurants across the country to close and has restricted travel in order to slow the outbreak.
Recovery depends on the immune system
The largest European outbreak is in Italy, where 23% of the population is aged over 65 and where 6% of cases have resulted in a fatality. Major outbreaks are also occurring in South Korea and Iran where there are fewer older people.
Thousands of people affected by the coronavirus globally have already recovered. As Covid-19 is a viral illness, antibiotics are of no use and neither are antiviral drugs that work against flu.
Recovery depends on the strength of the immune system and many of those who have died were already in poor health. The World Health Organization recommends people take simple precautions to reduce exposure and transmission.
The symptoms of Covid-19 vary from case to case, but the most common ones in China, from February data, are fever and dry cough (which are each seen in a majority of cases), fatigue, and sputum (the technical term for thick mucus coughed up from the respiratory tract). If you have a fever and dry cough, that could be a good reason to get yourself tested if possible.
Coronavirus VS other viruses
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (Mers) were both caused by coronaviruses that came from animals. Sars had a death rate of more than 10%. In 2002, Sars spread to 37 countries, infecting more than 8,000 people and killing more than 750. The Spanish flu was the deadliest pandemic in history, killing up to 100 million people between 1918 and 1920.
Why canceling events and self-quarantining is so important
The key is to “flatten the curve”: slowing the rate of increase in infections so that you spread out the cases, even if the total number doesn’t change. Flattening the curve slows the rate at which new cases arrive in hospitals, easing the burden on health care infrastructure and improving the odds that individual patients will survive.
Warnings to avoid crowds, and cancellations of major gatherings like conferences and parades, have put a damper on travel in the US, and the consequences for airlines have been dire. According to Earnest Research, spending on airlines fell 16.5 percent in the last week of February relative to a year prior. Cruises have seen a similar dip, while hotels are only now starting to see sales mildly decline.
It’s unlikely that the economic impact will stay limited to the hospitality industry, as social distancing leads people to avoid coffee shops, restaurants, gyms, bars, etc.
Coronavirus is more deadly than the flu
The following chart compares COVID-19 death rates by age in South Korea as of Thursday with death rates from the flu in the US over the course of the 2018-19 flu season, based on US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
The comparison makes clear that even given the lower death rates in South Korea, COVID-19 is still a far more dangerous disease than the flu.
The overall death rate in the US from last year’s flu season was about 0.1%, about 8.5 times lower than South Korea’s COVID-19 death rate. While both the flu and the coronavirus are more dangerous for older patients than younger patients, the flu’s death rate of about 0.8% among patients 65 and older is about one-fourth that of South Korea’s COVID-19 death rate of about 3.4% among patients 60 and older.
Comparisons between COVID-19 death rates in other countries and death rates from the flu are similarly stark.