New Chinese virus ‘will have infected hundreds’

the number of people already infected by
the mystery virus emerging in China is far greater than official figures
suggest scientists have told the BBC there have been nearly 50 confirmed
cases of the new virus but UK experts estimate the figure is closer to 1700 –
people are known to have died from the respiratory illness which appeared in
Wuhan City in December I am substantially more concerned than I
was a week ago disease outbreak scientist professor Neil Ferguson said
the work was conducted by the MRC Centre for global infectious disease analysis
at Imperial College London which advises bodies including the UK government in
the World Health Organization Singapore and Hong Kong have been screening air
passengers from Wuhan and US authorities announced similar measures starting on
Friday at three major airports in San Francisco Los Angeles and New York how
are the numbers calculated the crucial clue to the scale of the problem lies in
the cases being detected in other countries while the outbreak is centred
on the central Chinese city of Wuhan there have been two cases in Thailand
and one in Japan that caused me to worry said Professor Fergusson he added for
Wuhan to have exported three cases to other countries would imply there would
have to be many more cases than have been reported it is impossible to get
the precise number but outbreak modelling which is based on the virus
the local population and flight data can give an idea
Wuhan International Airport serves a population of 19 million people but only
3400 a day travel internationally the detailed calculations which have been
posted online ahead of publication in a scientific journal came up with a figure
of 1,700 cases what does it all mean professor Fergusson said it is too early
to be alarmist but he was substantially more concerned than a week ago Chinese
officials say there have been no cases of the virus spreading from one person
to another instead they say the virus has crossed the species barrier and come
from infected animals at a seafood and wildlife market in Wuhan professor
Fergusson argues people should be considering the possibility of
substantial human to human transmission more seriously than they have so far it
would be unlikely in my mind given what we know
about coronaviruses to have animal exposure be the principal cause of such
a number of human infections understanding how a novel virus is
spreading is a crucial part of assessing its threat what is this virus viral
samples have been taken from patients and analyzed in the laboratory and
officials in China and the World Health Organization have concluded the
infection as a corona virus corona viruses are a broad family of viruses
but only six the new one would make it seven are known to infect people at the
mild end they caused the common cold but severe acute respiratory syndrome SARS
is a corona virus that killed seven hundred seventy four of the eight
thousand ninety eight people infected in an outbreak that started in China in
2002 analysis of the genetic code of the new virus shows it is more closely
related to SARS than any other human coronavirus the virus has caused
pneumonia in some patients and been fatal in two of them what do other
experts say dr. Jeremy Ferrara director of the Wellcome medical research charity
said there is more to come from this epidemic uncertainty and gaps remain but
it’s clear that there is some level of person-to-person transmission we are
starting to hear of more cases in China and other countries and it is likely as
this modelling shows that there will be many more cases in a number of countries
Professor Jonathan ball from the University of Nottingham
said what’s really important is until there has been widespread laboratory
testing it is very difficult to put a real number on the cases out there but
this is a figure we should take seriously until we know otherwise 41
animal-to-human spill overs is stretching it a bit and there probably
is more underlying infection than has been detected so far

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