Nearly 3 months after the first COVID-19 cases were reported in China, the now international coronavirus pandemic only continues to worsen as infections spread, global markets are disrupted and daily life is turned upside down.
As of March 18, more than 200,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 8,000 deaths have been reported, according to the latest numbers from the World Health Organization (WHO). Of great concern, WHO notes that the actual infection count at present is likely to be higher due to underreporting.
In a press briefing on March 18, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom reported these updated numbers and asserted that more than 80% of all cases are from two regions: the Western Pacific and Europe.
This is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus, according to the WHO.
It will only get worse
Catastrophe risk modeling firm AIR Worldwide published estimations and projections from its Pandemic Model, forecasting what the next two weeks of the global COVID-19 pandemic will bring.
From March 18 to April 1, AIR projects that the number of mild to moderately symptomatic cases globally could reach between 600,000 and 2,000,000, and the number of severe cases could range between 200,000 and 900,000, with deaths ranging from 10,000 to 30,500.
Dr. Narges Dorratoltaj, a senior scientist at AIR Worldwide, notes that this estimate may represent “a moderately conservative projection of cases,” as the vast majority of coronavirus infections will display asymptomatic or mild symptoms.
AIR also notes its model-based estimates account for uncertainty and underreporting. Mild to moderate symptoms are the types of cases least likely to be captured in the official numbers, but even for severe cases and deaths, it is likely that there will be significant underreporting.
What you need to know about coronavirus
Widely agreed upon research from the CDC, WHO, AIR and others demonstrate that a high proportion of coronavirus-infected individuals develop very mild and nonspecific symptoms. A concern to health professionals, this group of infected individuals may not seek medical care and may not be counted in published numbers and updates.
Moderately symptomatic individuals usually experience fever, fatigue, and dry cough, and may ask for medical care. In one national study, the China Center for Disease Control (CCDC) found that 81% of studied patients experienced mild to moderate symptoms, while 14% of patients experienced severe symptoms, which include pneumonia, shortness of breath.
In more complicated cases, about 5% of patients experienced acute respiratory distress syndrome, arrhythmia, and shock.
A smaller percentage of patients also develop gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, such as nausea and diarrhea. Intensive care unit (ICU) admission has been higher among people over 60 years of age with pre-existing comorbidities.
In a statement, AIR’s Dr. Dorratoltaj concluded, “There is high uncertainty around the fatality of the disease; however, it is estimated that COVID-19 has a higher case fatality rate (CFR) compared to seasonal flu (~0.1%) and a lower CFR compared to the 2003 SARS outbreak (~5.0%-10.0%). The current estimation for the average CFR ranges between 0.5% and 4%.”
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