COVID-19: Highly contagious but less fatal

Recently, we all have been reading the news about the daily increase in the number of novel coronavirus infections and patient deaths alike in China and abroad. As of 22nd February 2,345 deaths have already been recorded in mainland China, so at the first glance it seems that the fatality of this disease is high.

A comprehensive study of more than 72,000 confirmed and suspected cases of the novel coronavirus was conducted by Chinese scientists at Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Their findings published in the Chinese Journal of Epidemiology states that novel coronavirus is more contagious than the related viruses which cause SARS and MERS.  While the resulting disease, COVID-19, is not as fatal on a case-by-case basis, its greater spread has already led to more deaths than other related coronaviruses.  The most recent data of 22nd February shows that the total confirmed cases in mainland China is 76,288 with 2,345 deaths. This brings down the case fatality rate of the disease to around 3 percent.


The virus emerged in Wuhan, China in mid December 2019 and since then is on a spree infecting and killing people in thousands. The virus belongs to the same family as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and has been renamed by WHO as COVID-19. Its similarity with SARS virus has given it a second name too SARS-CoV-2.


Back in 2002-04 SARS infection had spread in HongKong. It affected 8096 people causing severe pulmonary infections and led to 774 deaths (case fatality rate : 10%). The case fatality rate of MERS was around 35%. The disease cases were seen in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and South Korea.


In case of novel coronavirus, the first cases of hospitalized patients with penumonia were reported on 31st December, 2019. In the subsequent days the viral infections increased sharply mostly in the epicenter, Wuhan, China. It also spread throughout the different states within the nation and by now the infection has been confirmed in 25 other nations besides China. As of 21st February 11 deaths have been recorded outside China.


MERS virus is known to remain viable on plastic and metal surfaces for 48 hours at 20°C and 40% relative humidity. In contrast COVID-19 virus remains viable for upto 9 days on different surfaces at room temperature and has higher chances of spreading infections.






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