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Originally Answered: How serious is the Wuhan corona virus?
‘Serious’ has two dimensions –
contagiousness, ie how easily can a disease be spread from human to human or does it requires an intermediary agent (eg mosquito, tick, etc.); and
virulence, ie how harmful/fatal a disease is to the person who catches it.
Compared to SARS, experts say that the Wuhan Coronavirus (aka 2019 novel Coronavirus or 2019-nCoV) is more contagious but less virulent. So, we can expect to see a higher percentage of people falling sick but a smaller percentage dying.
Contagiousness is measured by R0 (R nought) or the number of people each infected person infects. At present, the coronavirus has a R0 > 2, which means it is in the spreading phase. The high R0 is due to a combination of how long the disease is infectious and how many people each infected person comes into contact with. Chinese New Year is an especially bad time, because (like Thanksgiving and Christmas in the west) a lot of people are moving around to visit relatives and friends. The R0 needs to be reduced (eg by isolation/quarantine of infected persons) to < 1.5 in order to bring the disease under control.
Virulence can be measured by the percentage of infected patients who die. The rate for SARS was nearly 10%. So far, the fatality rate for the Wuhan Coronavirus is around 4%. My guess is that the final figure may be turn out a little higher at 5-6%.
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