The media reports that more than one hundred thousand people have been affected by the Coronavirus. But what exactly is the origin of the virus? How contagious is it? And how worried do we need to be?
Coronavirus is a large group of viruses that often cause severe colds. Sometimes more powerful than a cold, such as SARS and MERS. Influenza virus belongs to the Orthomyxovirus family. SARS that came in 2003 and MERS from 2012 are both coronaviruses but they were much more deadly than the usual flu.
The symptoms of the new Coronavirus, from December 2019, are reminiscent of colds and flu; fever, fatigue, headache, sore throat, dry cough, difficulty breathing, frostbite, rapid heartbeat and in more severe cases also pneumonia and kidney failure.
Where does the virus originate from?
The official version is that the Coronavirus has spread from bats via a snake and then to humans and from humans to humans. But this is speculation and the evidence for it is weak. The virus should have started spreading in a food market in Wuhan. But there are several factors that make this unlikely. So far, no Coronavirus has been found in some animals from the food market in Wuhan.
Chinese scientists have mapped the virus’s genome and informed the rest of the world’s scientists. Researchers who have examined the genome see that the virus is very similar to the SARS virus, but that it has had a sequence inserted from another virus. This means that you cannot do this by yourself but have been done by people in laboratories. James Lyons-Weiler is a researcher who examined the virus’s genome, and he believes there is more than a 99 percent probability that the virus was created in a laboratory.
The virus laboratory with the highest risk rating (Biosecurity Level 4) is designed to study the world’s most dangerous disease-causing microorganisms. This is to see if drugs and vaccines can be found against these dangerous viruses and other microorganisms. But also to create new viruses that are more infectious and more deadly than the viruses we already know and that can be used in biological warfare. There is only one such lab with Biosecurity Level 4 in China. And it is located in Wuhan!
There is a lot of evidence that the Coronavirus has spread from the lab in Wuhan, but it is unknown yet.
Many also believe that we cannot rely on the figures reported from China. There is evidence to suggest that many times more people have fallen ill and died than what has been reported.
What is the difference between an epidemic and a pandemic?
If a large proportion of the population in a limited area is infected by an infectious disease, such as a country or continent, it is called an epidemic. A pandemic is an infectious disease that spreads throughout much of the world and affects a large proportion of the population on at least two continents or in several countries.
Every year, we are hit by a flu wave, caused by viruses, that pulls across the world. It usually spreads from Asia and then around the globe. Hundreds of millions, up to one billion people, fall ill and 200–700,000 people die each year because of the annual flu wave.
Nevertheless, these annual flu epidemics are not called pandemics. In some years, the flu epidemic is more contagious or more deadly than usual. It is then called a pandemic and gets its own name. During the 20th century, the world was hit by three major pandemics. Spanish illness 1918–1920 (a total of approximately 50–100 million dead), the Asian 1957 (a total of approximately 2 million dead), and the Hong Kong influenza 1968–1970 (a total of approximately 1 million dead).
Today, it is known that it was not the virus alone that killed but secondary bacterial infection with streptococcus pneumonia, i.e. the bacterium that causes pneumonia. The fact that so many people are killed today is due to the poor sanitary and hygienic conditions during the First World War, as well as the poor and nutritional diet.
How contagious and deadly is the Coronavirus?
Infection risk is measured in a measure called Ro (R-nought), which is a measure of how quickly the disease spreads (the risk of spread). Ro is the average number of people infected by an infected person. If Ro <1, the infection will die. If Ro = 1 it can stay alive and if Ro> 1 it spreads. The greater the Ro, the faster the virus and the number of people affected will spread.
Mortality of a virus is measured in a measure known as the Case Fatality Ratio (CFR) and is the number of deaths in relation to the number of diagnosed cases of illness and is expressed as a percentage. If the number of cases found is 1000 and the number of dead is 20, then mortality is 20/1000 = 2 percent.
Some viruses have high spreading ability (Ro> 1) but low mortality, and will not be so dangerous. Others have high mortality but not as high spreading ability (Ro <1) and can be more easily controlled even though they are very dangerous. An example of the latter is Ebola, where a great many of the sick people died, but it did not spread as widely.
One factor that affects the risk of infection Ro is how the virus spreads. This can be done through direct contact or transfer of body fluids, such as kisses and intercourse, but then it does not become so contagious because you do not have such interaction with so many people. But direct contact can also be done by touching door handles or other surfaces where the virus has come from another person. The virus is transmitted to the hands and then from the hands to the nose, mouth or eyes when peeing in these places. The coronavirus can survive 48 hours on such surfaces.
Most influenza is spread through a so-called drip infection, ie coughing or sneezing and it comes as a shower from the mouth or nose. These drops have a range of about one meter and then fall to the ground by their weight. But in some cases, very small airborne droplets (aerosols) are formed, which can stay afloat in the air for several hours and therefore the infection can spread even after the carrier has left the room. For the Coronavirus, it has now been found that it can be spread through aerosols.
Another factor that affects the risk of infection and mortality is how long the incubation period is (the time from being infected until you show some symptoms such as fever) and whether you are contagious or not during the incubation period. For SARS-2003, you were not contagious during the incubation period but only when you got symptoms, which meant that it did not spread as effectively as you could isolate people when they became ill and before they got many infections.
For the Coronavirus, the incubation period is 2-14 days and there are confirmed cases of up to 24 days and even 27 days.  In addition, it is now confirmed that you are contagious during the incubation period, unlike SARS, which makes it more difficult to isolate infected persons because you do not know about it before you get symptoms, but still it is very contagious.
A factor that is unique to the Coronavirus is that it can be contagious even after being ill and being declared healthy. And also get sick again after recovering from the virus.
Of all those who become infected, some notice nothing, others become a little ill and may stay at home for a few days and some become so ill that they seek care. It is only those who seek care that are included in the statistics and only those persons who can be isolated and where you can follow up on the persons the infected person has met. Because you can be a spreading agent even if you never get sick and therefore do not know that you are a carrier, it becomes much more difficult to isolate people and stop the spread.
A crucial factor is also how common it is with serious complications that need care and possibly hospital isolation. For common flu it is less than 1 percent, for SARS it was about 15 percent and for the Coronavirus, it is estimated to be more than 20 percent. This is a major burden on health care and if there are too many difficult cases, health care is overloaded and the hospital places end, especially in the intensive care. This can lead to a good isolation of sick people, which increases both the spread and the mortality.
Ro and CFR can be determined precisely only afterward, partly because. the incubation period of several weeks, up to one month for the Coronavirus. And partly because it takes extra time for some people who get sick before dying. Mortality (CFR) can be several weeks or months afterward, which means that the death rate is uncertain for a long time and cannot be determined until the epidemic is over.
The above factors; extremely long incubation time, spread through aerosols and being contagious even when you are asymptomatic (even though you have no symptoms yourself), and the high risk of complications make the Coronavirus extra difficult.
Of those who have died so far, 80% are older than 60 years, and very few children, including infants, fall ill. This is positive and differs from the usual flu since children are often affected.
It is important to understand that Ro and CFR are not inherent characteristics of a virus but it largely depends on how we handle the situation. Tranquility and CFR become different if everyone in a society is washing their hands carefully, avoiding contact with infected persons, isolating themselves when you have symptoms and observing other precautions, compared to not doing so. The difference can be a factor of 2–4, that is, Ro can be 1 if everyone in a society observes careful precautions, or 4 or higher if most do not care. It is up to both you and the individual to limit the spread of infection.
So far (February 28), nearly 84,000 people have fallen ill and over 2,800 have died, the vast majority in China. But can we trust the data from China? At first they said they had the situation under control but then it turned out that they did not have the situation under control. Now many million cities in China have been quarantined and the measures taken by the authorities to limit the spread are extremely powerful and partially brutal. There is much evidence that there are many times more people who have fallen ill and died in China than the authorities report.
Is the Coronavirus a pandemic?
When it came to swine flu in 2009, WHO was very quick to call it a pandemic and warn everyone and recommend vaccination. There was then a finished vaccine and several people from the vaccine industry were included in the WHO Council. It is suspected that the vaccine manufacturer simply saw a business opportunity.
But when it comes to the Coronavirus, WHO are very cautious about naming it a pandemic or even that it poses a big risk. If you look at the facts, you will realize that the Coronavirus is much more serious than the swine flu or a common flu or SARS.
Something remarkable is why the spread is so fast and the mortality rate is so high in China. Admittedly, the virus has its epicenter in Wuhan, China and they have had a longer time to spread the infection. But the difference between China and the rest of the world is remarkably large. Some believe that it is not only due to the virus, but also that 5G is very advanced, including Wuhan. 5G affects the body in many ways, including reducing the immune system, which means that the consequence of a virus can be much more serious than without the radiation.
Some viral diseases are very contagious, such as measles, but not particularly fatal. Other diseases are very deadly if you become infected but they have low spread, for example, Marburg and Ebola. But the truth also lies in the mathematics of the great tales. For example, swine flu in 2009 had only a mortality rate of about 0.03 percent, but as it spread effectively across the earth and killed more than 760 million people, the total number of deaths was almost 300,000.
Similarly, it is with the common flu that sweeps across the earth each year where mortality is about 0.1 percent. It is estimated that about 10 percent of the earth’s population gets infected every year (about 700 million people) and the number of deaths is estimated at 290,000-650,000 people per year.
It is also important to remember that the mortality rate as a percentage (CFR) is calculated on the number of known cases of illness. When it comes to the very deadly diseases such as Marburg and Ebola, you get to know almost 100% because you get so sick. When it comes to diseases with low mortality, you do not know how many are actually infected. It is estimated that the number of people infected with the annual flu, who do not come under care, is about 10 times as many as those who are reported as sick.
The question is therefore which type of virus disease is the most serious, those who are highly contagious but with low mortality or those who have low infectivity but with high mortality.
Should you be worried or afraid of this new virus Coronavirus?
The coronavirus is not like the usual flu and it is not like SARS either, although the virus is very similar to SARS. What is special about the Coronavirus is that it is significantly more contagious than the common flu but also has a mortality rate that is much higher than the regular flu. And since it is a brand new virus there is not a natural immunity as with other viruses. And no medicine or vaccination yet.
Compared to the common flu, the Coronavirus is about 2-6 times more contagious and mortality is 20-30 times higher. These are estimates that will become more accurate over time. Therefore, the Coronavirus has great potential to develop into a very serious pandemic.
Worry and fear are not good. Concern and fear lower the immune system very effectively, which counteracts the purpose. However, it is good to inform and make intelligent choices to minimize damage. It is the same as when you set up fire alarms in your home and take out home insurance. You do not do this because you are scared or worried, but because you are foresight and understand that if it should start burning in your home, then it is too late to do anything to prevent the situation or plan for action.