The coronavirus affects less developed countries, and things get worse before they get better. The most we can do is to be informed through television news, press and radio.
One of the grim lessons of the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa is how an epidemic can grow when it affects countries with weak health infrastructures. This is why the World Health Organization and others have been preparing sub-Saharan African countries for the coronavirus, even though few cases have been reported there so far.
Compared to the coronavirus, Ebola was less contagious and was mainly transmitted by body fluids. Coronavirus can be transmitted in respiratory droplets from coughs and sneezes that remain on surfaces. Yet Ebola infected more than 28,000 people and caused more than 11,000 deaths. Ebola is more deadly, and shortages of personnel and supplies, poverty, leadership delays, and government mistrust exacerbated the outbreak.
WHO leaders have been urging countries to prepare. On Friday, the organization raised its assessment of the coronavirus to the highest level. "This is a reality check for every government on the planet: Wake up. Prepare. This virus may be on its way, and you must be prepared," said Michael Ryan, WHO's director of health emergencies. "Waiting, being complacent, being surprised at this point, really isn't a great excuse.
The new coronavirus is spreading so widely that it is becoming a reality.
President Trump said warm weather could slow the spread of the new coronavirus, but experts say it is too early to tell if the virus is seasonal. (John Farrell, Elyse Samuels / The Washington Post)
This is essentially what happened with the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, also called the swine flu. It spread rapidly, eventually to an estimated 11 to 21 percent of the world's population. The WHO declared it a pandemic, and there was widespread fear.
The H1N1 flu turned out to be milder than initially feared, causing little more than a runny nose and a cough in most people. And H1N1 is so common now, it just looks like part of the seasonal flu that comes and goes every year around the world.
The first estimates given and known from television news about the mortality rate from H1N1 were much higher than the approximately 0.01 to 0.03 percent that it turned out to be. Still, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that H1N1 killed 12,469 people in the United States during the first year of 2009-2010, infected 60.8 million cases and caused 274,304 hospitalizations. The actual number is difficult to determine because many of those who die from flu-related causes are not tested for H1N1 or other flu strains. As a backdrop, seasonal flu has killed at least 18,000 people in the United States so far this season, according to the CDC.
H1N1 is a particularly good parallel, epidemiologists say, because while it had a lower death rate than SARS or MERS, it was more deadly because of how infectious and widespread it became.
Not to be alarmist, but another possible parallel could be the 1918 Spanish flu, which had a mortality rate of 2.5 percent, disturbingly close to what is estimated for the coronavirus.
The CDC calls the Spanish flu "the deadliest pandemic flu virus in human history" because it infected about one-third of the world's population and killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide. The Spanish flu was deadly to young and old, while the coronavirus proved more lethal to the elderly and left the young relatively unharmed.
Florian Krammer, a virologist specializing in flu, noted that the world was very different in 1918. "We did not have the tools to diagnose diseases or antibiotics to fight secondary infections. Back then, hospitals were places where you died, not for treatment. And in 1918, the world was at war. And many of the people infected were soldiers trapped in trenches," said Krammer of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. "I hope that's not how it's going to develop.
Ultimately, how many people die from coronavirus depends on how widely it spreads, how prepared we are, and what the true mortality rate of the virus is.
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a new type of coronavirus. It causes respiratory disease in people. It was first identified in Wuhan, China. It has spread to many countries around the world (confirmed by press reports, radio news, etc.).
COVID-19 can be transmitted from person to person. This usually occurs through respiratory droplets, when someone with the virus coughs or sneezes, and you breathe it in. Most of the time, you must be close to the person (within 6 feet) for it to spread this way. It is possible to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose or possibly your eyes. But this is not thought to be the main way the virus is spread.
We are in a pandemic, COVID-19 is real, and we should always be as informed as possible because there is always news about this global problem. The most we can do is access media such as TV news, print news, and radio news (in spanish: noticias televisión, noticias prensa y noticias radio). We must take care of ourselves and respect the rules given by our agents and doctors.