The city of Hong Kong and its 7 million+ residents have reason to be extremely anxious about the nCoV outbreak that has already caused more than 1,000 deaths on the mainland. Back in 2003, SARS ripped through the densely populated largely autonomous city and killed some 300 people, nearly half the total death toll from the outbreak.
Professor Gabriel Leung, the chair of public health medicine at Hong Kong University, was one of the first officials anywhere in China to suggest that the government was hiding, or simply hadn’t yet confirmed, the true extend of the outbreak.
Riffing off of comments from WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who said yesterday that the we might be seeing only ‘the tip of the iceberg’ in terms of number of cases, Leung said the scientific community’s ‘overriding concern’ is figuring out the ‘size and shape’ of the iceberg.
Leung added that most experts now believe the virus has a transmission rate of – or r-sub-zero – of 2.5, meaning the average infected individual will transmit the virus to 2.5 others. This also translates to an “attack rate” of 60%-80%, the Guardian reports.
“Sixty per cent of the world’s population is an awfully big number,” Leung told the Guardian in London, en route to an expert meeting at the WHO in Geneva on Tuesday.
On Tuesday morning, Chinese health officials confirmed nearly 100 new deaths, bringing the toll to 1,013 as of late Monday.
If the virus continues to spread at this pace, even a relatively low fatality rate of 1% – which Leung believes is possible once milder, undetected cases are accounted for – could still lead to a massive death toll. Rough calculations indicate that, if two-thirds of the 7.7 billion people living on earth are infected, a 1% mortality rate would still lead to nearly 51 million deaths. – READ MORE
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