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Coronavirus: what we know and what we don’t

PARIS, France (AFP) – Researchers want to know everything about the latest coronavirus, from its mortality rate to its origins, to the incubation period and much more, and still have empty spaces to fill.

Mortality rate?

COVID-19, as the disease is known, is more lethal than the average seasonal flu, but less than the previous coronavirus epidemics. We do not yet know its precise mortality rate.

World Health Organization data released Saturday identified 2,348 deaths from 76,392 confirmed cases in China, at an approximate rate of 3.07 percent.

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On February 11, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC) published a study of 72,314 confirmed, clinically diagnosed or suspected cases.

According to the largest study conducted so far, the novel coronavirus was benign in 80.9 percent of cases, “severe” in 13.8 percent and “critical” in 4.7 percent.

The remaining 0.6 percent was not specified.

According to the Chinese CDC study, the mortality rate increased substantially with age and those over 80 were most at risk with a 14.8 percent rate.

Even patients who already suffered from cardiovascular disease were particularly at risk, in view of diabetics and those who suffered from chronic respiratory diseases or hypertension.

Global estimates of the mortality rate are risky, however, since we don’t know how many people have actually been infected.

Other coronavirus strains, such as SARS and Mers, have established mortality rates of 9.5% and 34.5% respectively.

How contagious is it?

Specialists generally agree that every person who gets infected with coronaviruses on average between two and three others.

This is a higher rate of a typical winter flu (1.3), lower than an infectious disease such as measles (more than 12) and comparable to severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS (3) – the last major virus to break out in China , in 2002-03.

Some experts warn, however, that we could seriously underestimate the number of cases.

A study published Friday by the Imperial College Center for Global Infectious Disease Analysis said: “We have estimated that about two thirds of COVID-19 cases exported from mainland China have gone unnoticed worldwide, potentially resulting in multiple chains of beings. human-to-yet undetected human transmission outside mainland China. “

WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed concern on Friday “about the number of cases without a clear epidemiological link, such as the history of travel to China or contact with a confirmed case”.

Asymptomatic cases where people show no symptoms are another cause for concern.

The incubation period is estimated to be 2 to 10 days and led the experts to decide on a 14-day observation period for suspicious cases or for people returning from areas such as the Chinese province of Hubei, the epicenter of the epidemic.

How is it transmitted?

The virus is mainly transmitted by respiratory and physical contact. Saliva drops expelled when an infected person coughs is a common example and researchers believe that it generally occurs at a distance of about one meter (yard) at most.

Health tips highlight measures such as washing your hands often, coughing or sneezing into your elbow hole or a tissue and wearing a mask if you know you have been infected.

A secondary means of transmission could be diarrhea.

What are the symptoms and treatments?

WHO states: “Signs and symptoms include respiratory symptoms and include fever, cough and shortness of breath. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome and sometimes death. “

There are currently no vaccines or drugs to combat COVID-19, so health officials can only treat the symptoms.

Some patients are given anti-viral drugs, but their effectiveness has not been proven so far.

Where does it come from?

The novel coronavirus is believed to have come from bats, but researchers think it may have spread to humans through another species of mammal.

Chinese researchers suspect it may be the pangolin, a widely trafficked and endangered mammal.

The global scientific community considers the hypothesis plausible, but still awaits confirmation.

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