The world is on the edge of its seat as the mortality count of the coronavirus continues to climb upwards, with the official number breaching 500. China, the source and epicenter of the issue, initially tried to silence the doctors who raised the issue, but since then has been trying to move swiftly to mitigate the damage. In today's post we take a brief look at the official numbers around the damage currently done, where the disease lies with respect to mortality and contagion risks, and the steps China is taking to limit the impact.
Corona - The origin & the growth
The virus is believed to have originated in an unconventional meat market in December last year. With an incubation period of around two weeks spotting the disease early and avoiding the spread becomes a challenge. China's high population density combined with the moderate incubation period of the virus makes it a potent threat.
In the initial few days, doctors who flagged the virus were reprimanded by police and local authorities. Since then, however, the government has moved swiftly, rapidly trying to create makeshift infrastructure to treat the huge surge of patients emerging. But the sheer scale of the disease has ensured that scarcity of beds, medical and protective supplies, and most importantly medical professionals continues in key centers where the disease has hit hardest.
The official death count has now exceeded 560 with the death toll rising sharply every passing day. Within China more than 28,000 people have been affected by the disease, with reported cases in more than 20 other countries. There have also been speculations about the official case and death count being significantly higher, but no legitimate sources have been able to confirm those numbers.
How dangerous is it
To understand the impact the disease can have, we try to look at this through two broad factors - 1. How fast can the disease spread? 2. How likely are the people affected by the disease to die?
The first question depends primarily on the population density of the given area (with a higher density aiding faster spread, as one person, on average, comes in touch with a greater number of people), the incubation period of the disease (with a longer incubation period ensuring that symptoms don't manifest for a longer period, making it more likely that an infected person interacts with other people and spreads the disease), and the modes through which the disease spreads. In a densely populated China, the disease which takes around two weeks to show symptoms, and spreads rapidly amongst people poses a very high risk. On average each person currently infects around 2.5 people. While this number may look small, the impact magnifies manifold through a couple of cycles of the disease.
On the mortality front, the answer depends on the rate at which a cure or way to defer damage by the disease is found, and the impact the disease has on individuals. Globally the race to develop a way to cure the disease are on, seeing heavy investments, with preliminary reports of a solution appearing in Thailand. It is important to note however that such medicines generally go through a long complex process of testing, which makes this a challenging process. While experimental procedures may be available sooner, a safe vaccine is expected to take atleast a year. On the impact of the disease, people with preexisting respiratory conditions were affected the most dying the fastest, but otherwise healthy people have begun succumbing to the disease as well.
How is China trying to contain the impact
Which brings us to the last part of the puzzle. China's attempt to contain the disease. What the government has tried to do to limit the deaths due to the disease, and through that control the economic impact of the disease is effectively quarantined an entire city. While this could have very adverse consequences of on Wuhan, the city that has an overwhelming amount of reported cases, as the people in the city are unable to seek care elsewhere, and are unlikely to receive high-quality care in a city already stretched to the limits, it seems to be a tradeoff the country is willing to make for the greater good.
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