Coronavirus outbreak likely to become a pandemic, say disease experts

The coronavirus is well on its way to becoming a pandemic, according to leading global infectious disease experts.

Since its outbreak in China, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has climbed from around 50 victims in China to 14,000 in 23 countries while the death toll has risen to over 300.

A pandemic is an ongoing epidemic of disease which takes place on two or more continents and, despite the huge travel and quarantine restrictions imposed by China and other countries, the virus may have huge global consequences.

The virus is spreading in a similar way to influenza, or flu, and is highly contagious and transmissible – setting it apart from other slow-moving viruses like SARS.

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However various experts predict the actual number of cases is closer to 10,000 or more, compared to 8,098 confirmed cases of SARS.

Infectious disease experts said the true scale of the virus will be revealed once the total death toll is revealed.

Former director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Doctor Thomas R. Frieden says it is unlikely that the Coronavirus can be contained at this stage.

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He added: “It is therefore likely that it will spread, as flu and other organisms do, but we still don’t know how far, wide or deadly it will be.”

Reports from China indicate that some of those infected with coronavirus can spread it to others before they start showing symptoms, which could make border-checking potential carriers much more difficult.

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Research around the disease released on Friday by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control estimated that 75% of infected people would still be in the incubation period by the time they reach Europe from China.

If this is true, they will not be detected at airport screenings, which look for symptoms of fever, breathing difficulties and coughs.

Some medical experts believe that the virus will fade out during the coming months as the weather warms up – but warned to expect another wave of it in the autumn.

Several scientists across the world are working on a vaccine for coronavirus, while one organisation is aiming to create one which tackles all flu viruses.

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