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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Explained: How coronavirus outbreak differs from 2003 SARS epidemic

SARS was also caused by a type of coronavirus (SARS-CoV). It is believed to be an animal virus, possibly transmitted from bats to civet cats to human beings.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: February 5, 2020 11:37:56 am
Explained: How coronavirus outbreak differs from 2003 SARS epidemic Yemeni women hold banners in front of the Chinese embassy in solidarity with coronavirus-hit China, in Sanaa, Yemen, on February 4. (Photo: AP)

The death toll resulting from the coronavirus (nCoV-2019) outbreak in China has crossed that of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic between 2002-2003, with over 425 deaths and more than 17,000 cases in the country alone. Outside of China, two people have died. Reports suggest that a 39-year-old man died in Hong Kong on Tuesday, which is the first death due to the virus there.

Furthermore, there are now 11 confirmed cases in the US, 20 in Japan, 15 in the Republic of Korea, 18 in Singapore, 19 in Thailand and 10 in Germany. On Thursday, the WHO declared the current outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

SARS Epidemic 2002-2003

SARS was also caused by a type of coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and is believed to be an animal virus, possibly transmitted from bats to civet cats to human beings.

This virus first infected human beings in the Guangdong province of Southern China in 2002 and the region is still considered a potential zone of the re-emergence of the SARS CoV.

The epidemic affected 26 countries and resulted in more than 8,000 cases in 2003.

SARS is transmitted from person to person, and the symptoms include fever, malaise, headache, myalgia, diarrhea and shivering. According to the WHO, fever is the most frequently reported symptom, and cough, shortness of breath and diarrhea follow in the first or second week of illness.

Other countries where the SARS CoV spread during the epidemic include Hong Kong, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Singapore and Vietnam.

Also Read | Explained: Why China has emerged as the epicentre of global outbreaks of disease

Comparing SARS and nCoV

When SARS broke out, China was criticised for not being transparent about the situation. It is believed that the authorities did not disclose valid information about the epidemic for over four months after it started to spread.
This time, however, China has admitted “shortcomings and difficulties” in their response to the outbreak and said that it urgently requires medical equipment and surgical masks. Even so, some officials in Wuhan have been criticised for withholding information about the outbreak until the end of last year.

As the number of nCoV cases shoot up day by day, as per John Hopkins University’s Tom Inglesby, “…while on the one hand it is alarming to have case numbers go up, on the other hand, when we have more and more people with illness and we have a broader understanding of the range of severity, we may also learn that for an increasing number of people, it is not a life-threatening illness. That’s the hope, and there’s a scientific rationale for believing that.”

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In an article published on the university’s website, Inglesby also said that the majority of the people who contract the novel coronavirus seem to have “mild illness” and “full recovery”. Therefore, there may be a reason to believe that the novel coronavirus is probably less fatal than SARS.

SARS infected 8,000 people the world over and resulted in over 800 deaths, which gives a mortality rate of roughly 10 per cent. So far, with more than 17,000 cases and over 425 deaths, the mortality rate for nCoV is roughly 2.5 per cent.

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