The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has shocked the world. It was first reported in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, in China as a pneumonia-like illness seen in patients who had one thing in common – they visited the Huanan seafood market. Since then, the virus has spread to 180 countries and territories, infecting over 937,000 people worldwide. Now, a new mathematical model developed by scientists at the Universita degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, Italy, shows that about 2 to 3 percent of the total population of Hubei Province has been infected.
In this new study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, a team of researchers used the Susceptible-Infected-Recovered-Dead (SIRD) model, which included data between Jan. 11 and Feb. 10, with key epidemiological parameters until Feb. 29. The team provided estimates of the case fatality and case recovery ratio along with their 90 percent confidence intervals as the outbreak grows.
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Forecasting the evolution of the outbreak
With the use of the SIRD model, the team was able to forecast the growth of the outbreak at the epicenter three weeks ahead. They projected that between 80,000 and 160,000 people would be infected by Feb. 29, which is close to the actual infection toll during that time – 84,000.
The researchers believe that this is the first study using a mathematical modeling approach, which provides an accurate three-week-ahead forecast. This is important as the model can accurately predict how many people will be infected, and therefore prepare healthcare services, diagnostic testing, and government funding amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Further, the researchers noted that the actual number of infections in the total population is about twenty times more than those reported, and the mortality rate is lower than previously thought. Based on their computation, the fatality rate in China was about 0.15 percent, which is significantly less than the reported 2 to 3 percent.
The team estimates that the coronavirus has infected about 2 to 3 percent of the total population in Hubei Province. Hubei province is home to about 60 million people, which equates to 1.2 million to 1.8 million infected people.
WHO gathering latest data about COVID-19
Studies like this can help the World Health Organization (WHO) determine the severity and extent of the virus since testing is limited across the globe. The lack of testing kits, since this virus is novel, can lead to delayed testing of patients with suspected COVID-19. When mass testing is accessible, the number of infected people may increase significantly. It is expected that the actual fatality rate of the disease may be much lower.
The estimates based on scientific data and mathematical algorithms can help health officials track the outbreak and determine the extent of its effect. Now, the WHO is gathering the latest scientific findings and knowledge on coronavirus disease and compiling them in a database.
The vast spread of the virus across the globe is overwhelming healthcare systems in most countries affected.
Mass testing is vital to prevent the spread of the virus. If more people get tested, those who are carriers of the infection can be quarantined, isolated, and health officials can effectively perform extensive contact tracing.
The United States is now home to the highest number of cases, with nearly 217,000 infections and more than 5,000 deaths. Italy has the most significant number of deaths, with a death toll surpassing 13,000, and more than 110,000 infected.
China has reported more than 82,000 infections and more than 3,000 deaths, however, it has the most number of recoveries, with more than 76,000 of those infected now recovered.