The coronavirus disease outbreak has rapidly spread in China and across the globe, with more than 1,400 deaths and 69,288 confirmed infections in seven weeks. Now, medical experts project that if the virus can not be contained, it can infect 60 percent of the population and kill 45 million people.
The infection, which is now officially called COVID-19, started in Wuhan in Hubei province, China and has spread to 25 countries with 1,670 confirmed deaths, four of which reported outside mainland China – France, Hong Kong, Japan, and the Philippines.
Health experts believe that if a person tests positive with the virus, he can infect 2.5 more people, raising an alarm of the virus's potency in spreading rapidly. With this attack rate, it could go on and infect 60 percent of the world's population, which is equivalent to more than four billion people.
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Tip of the iceberg
Professor Gabriel Leung, chair of public health medicine at Hong Kong University, told The Guardian that those infected who have never visited China could be just the "tip of the iceberg." Though 99 percent of the infections are in mainland China, the outbreak poses a grave threat to the rest of the world, as the World Health Organization (WHO) dubs it as the "worst enemy you could ever imagine," which poses a greater danger than terrorism.
Further, Professor Leung said that if locking down major cities in China to control the spread of the virus is working, other countries should also adopt the measure. This way, other countries won't suffer the magnitude of the outbreak China is experiencing today.
Global spread fears
Professor Leung played an imperative role in the research of the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak that killed nearly a thousand people. The coronavirus death toll has surpassed that of SARS, raising alarms that it could still get worse since the outbreak is just starting in other countries.
WHO's director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus fears that if the current outbreak reaches and spreads in a country with a poor health system, it would be catastrophic. China has a sound healthcare system, with modern equipment. It has built two 1,000 bed capacity hospitals in just ten days. However, the country is still bombarded by the magnitude of the health problem.
If a third-world country, like those in neighboring countries in Asia, experiences the same rapid spread of the infection akin to China, more deaths will be recorded.
Status outside China
Currently, there are three deaths related to the coronavirus disease outside mainland China. In Japan, the third death, who is an 80-year-old woman who had been in the hospital since Feb. 1. The doctors first diagnosed her with pneumonia, but confirmation of COVID-19 came after her death.
Aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, 70 more cases were confirmed Saturday. The ship with 3,700 passengers and crew members has a reported a total of 355 confirmed cases.
In another cruise ship, Westerdam, there are no confirmed cases. Five country ports have not allowed the ship to disembark in fears of the coronavirus. The ship docked in Cambodia's Sihanoukville port.
Meanwhile, the U.S. confirms 15 cases of the coronavirus disease, including eight people in California, one in Massachusetts, one in Texas, one in Arizona, one in Washington, one in Wisconsin, and two in Illinois.
The United Kingdom has reported nine confirmed cases of the virus, after a woman who flew in from China presented herself with symptoms of the disease and tested positive. A total of 1,750 persons under investigation have tested negative for the infection.
The coronavirus has confirmed cases in 25 countries, a majority of whom were from Wuhan, China, who left the epicenter of the outbreak before travel bans took effect. Wuhan has a woman down to prevent people from going out and into the city. However, an estimated five million have left Wuhan before the lockdown, which is a city home to 11 million people.