New coronavirus not more infectious than SARS — WHO
MANILA, Philippines — The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday said that while there were more reported cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) compared to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), this did not mean that the virus currently affecting 25 countries today was more infectious than that seen nearly two decades ago.
WHO country representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe explained that the early detection and recognition of the disease, which originated in Wuhan City in China’s Hubei province, are key factors why there is a higher number of confirmed nCoV cases now than the total SARS cases in 2003.
“More cases does not mean it is more infectious. You need to recognize that in SARS we didn’t start counting or detecting and confirming the SARS diagnosis for a month because we did not know the pathogen for one month. In this case, we have a very early start,”Abeyasinghe told reporters.
While the first known SARS case was traced back in Guangdong, China, in November 2002, the WHO was only able to issue its first case definition of suspect and probable cases of the disease in March 2003.
By end-2003, SARS spread to 29 countries and sickened 8,096 individuals and killed 774. As of Monday, the WHO has already recorded 40,554 cases and 320 deaths, mostly in China. Reports on the 2019-nCoV surfaced late December.
Abeyasinghe said the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus was also compounded by the fact that the disease surfaced just by the time that celebrations for the Lunar New Year were underway.
“We recognized that that has made the response a little more complicated than would have been normally,” he said.
While much is still unknown about the disease, Abeyasinghe maintained that its spread remains to be through droplets and direct contact with infected individuals.
He dispelled as merely “rumors” the reports that the Wuhan coronavirus has been reclassified as an airborne disease.
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