So, are we all going to die, or will the corona virus fizzle out. In Italy the police driving along streets with loud speakers and warning people to keep indoors whilst in Britain, the government has decided not to close schools or call off major sporting events, and have not told people to stop going to the pub. Either Italy, are hugely overreacting. Or Britain, are hugely under reacting to COVID 19. The Health Secretary Matt Hancock has not really helped calm the fears across the UK by announcing the government is working on a worst case scenario of 80% of the population catching the virus. And, by the middle of May potentially 500,000 people may die. Of course these statistics are some of the reasons for the mass panic buying across the supermarkets of the UK.
I know myself from going into my local store today that they cannot stock the shelves fast enough. The situation isn’t easy for scientists, because this disease is fast developing and very changeable. There is inevitably a shortage of peer reviewed studies, which will give the population and accurate picture of the history and future course of the disease, but from what I can tell is that the health secretary is fairly accurate in his estimations. If continue not to act in a similar manner to somewhere like Singapore, there will be a large number of people infected with the disease. This does NOT mean that a large number of people need to die from the disease however.
The corona virus is reported to have a fatality of around three and a half percent reported over the past weeks reported by the World Health Organisation. There have been suggestions that the disease is more deadly than it was previously understood where the mortality rate was calculated at around 2%. The World Health Organisation explained that the three and a half percent estimated is simply the number of deaths divided by the reported number of case. This gives them the fatality rate. It doesn’t account for the possibility that there may be many more people who have been infected with the virus that have gone on unrecorded. This is because that there may be a large number of people who have Corona virus, where their symptoms are so mild that they have not sought treatment, or they do not feel that they have coronavirus, they may simply feel that they have a normal winter cold.
There have been some studies that have tried to estimate how many of the affected people will go on to be killed by the disease. A team at Imperial College in London looked at the results of corona virus tests that were performed on approx 1000 citizens who were flown to their own home countries on repatriation from China. they have used this to estimate the extent of the underreporting of the virus. From these studies they have been able to calculate that the overall infection fatality is more likely to be 1%. However they do point out an uncertainty of between 0.4% and 2% . In Washington state, the same study was performed, and similar values were calculated. It’s noted that the death rate from the disease increases with age and when someone has existing health conditions.
One of the things that scientists are unclear about is how likely you are to catch the disease. Whilst they are able to model the course of the disease – they are not sure whether it is possible that 80% of people in the UK will get the virus or not. The best source of information that we have to use today is the data from other countries. Around 1300 people who were in close contact with Corona virus sufferers in Shenzhen, a city adjoining Hong Kong. The study that has been published, found that approximately 15% of people who shared a room, or an apartment with somebody who was suffering with coronavirus then went on to contract the infection themselves. Of those who had contact with somebody who was sick outside of the home, approximately 10% of people became infected. Taking into account the missing participants in the study, the infection rate fell to 11% of the people who shared households with an infected person, and 6%, who had contact outside of the home.
The World Health Organisation has been producing a report on a daily basis. The report for this Tuesday showed that approximately 109,000 Global cases have been confirmed. This, of course had been a rise of around 4000 cases the day previous. In China alone, there have been more than 80,000 confirmed cases. And more than 7000 cases in South Korea, and a further 7000 cases alone in Italy. As I’ve already mentioned, however this is likely to be the tip of a much larger iceberg, as there will be a significant number of people who will have contracted disease with such minor symptoms that they haven’t come into contact with healthcare systems. So what can you do to keep yourself and your family healthy?