Even as the number of new coronavirus cases being detected each day are dropping, fears over the outbreak refuse to cease. The viral infection has so far killed over 1,100 people in China — the epicentre of the outbreak — with 97 more deaths recorded Wednesday. Despite the death toll, the novel coronavirus epidemic, later renamed by the WHO as COVID-19, is not a life-threatening illness.
Most of the infections are in Hubei in China, though the daily tally of new cases detected in the province fell when compared to previous days. Hubei recorded 2,097 new cases Monday, compared to 2,618 a day earlier. The total number of cases have now hit 44,653, including 2,015 new cases on Tuesday, the lowest daily rise in new cases since January 30.
In comparison to the SARS epidemic of 2002-2003, the novel coronavirus is less fatal than the epidemic which resulted in around 800 deaths 17 years ago. Like the 2019-nCoV or Wuhan virus, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is also caused due to a type of coronavirus, called the SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV).
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in a video message to his citizens, has underlined how “fear can do more harm than the virus itself.” Singapore has reported 47 cases of coronavirus. Its biggest bank, DBS, evacuated 300 staff from its head office on Wednesday after a confirmed coronavirus case in the building, according to AP.
Emphaising his administration’s preparedness to deal with cases, Lee appealed to citizens to remain calm and not give in to rumour-mongering. “Having overcome SARS once, we know that we can pull through this too,” he says in the video in a comforting tone, explaining how the virus isn’t as fatal as it is made out to be.
Coronavirus killed more, but SARS was more deadly
There are two key differences, Lee said, between the two epidemic of SARS and coronavirus. Unlike the SARS, the novel coronavirus is more infectious as more number of people have contracted it. However, it is less life threatening and largely affects older people and those already suffering from other diseases.
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 40,000 cases and a little over 1000 deaths, the mortality rate for nCoV is roughly 0.2 per cent. Seasonal influenza, meanwhile, has a mortality rate of 0.1 per cent. “So, in terms of mortality, the new virus is much closer to influenza than sars,” Lee said.
However, unlike influenza, which has a flu vaccine and better antiviral drugs, the cure to novel coronavirus is yet to be found. The WHO has said it will take 18 months to find a vaccine to prevent the virus.
Even so, the novel coronavirus is not yet fatal. In a bid to dispel fears, Lee asks Singaporeans to “not stock up instant noodles or tinned food or toilet paper,” thinking the town will be on lockdown.
In India, where three people, all from Kerala, carrying the virus are on road of recovery. There has so far been no imminent threat about the virus spreading as precautionary measures, including the quarantine of people who may have a chance of contracting the virus have been taken effectively. However, the death of a 50-year-old man in Andhra Pradesh, who suspected he had contracted coronavirus and hanged himself to prevent his family members from catching it, shows there is a need of increase in awareness about the viral infection and its treatment.
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