The new coronavirus, also known as 2019-nCoV that emerged in China, has rightfully earned a place in history as one of the scariest infections ever. The outbreak has even prompted the Chinese government to quarantine the entire city of Wuhan, a city the size of London and to build two massive hospitals in under a week to treat infected people. Countries around the world are rightfully concerned as well, with most stopping airline flights to China and implementing screening procedures at airports. However, for the general public, it may not be the time to panic yet despite all the news surrounding it.
The infectivity of a disease is determined by its R nought or R0, which represents the number of people likely to be infected by one sick person. Each known disease has an R0, and if the number is greater than 1, the disease is likely to spread. The most infective disease, measles, has an R0 value of 18, which explains the importance of becoming vaccinated against it. Ebola, on the other hand, although it is another dangerous disease, has an R0 of 2 as its victims die before it can be passed on. The current coronavirus has an estimated R0 of 2.5, similar to the previous SARS virus and higher than the seasonal flu with an R0 of 1.3.
Despite the high R0 of this virus, global efforts are in place to limit its spread, having learned from previous pandemics and there is every expectation that those measures will be successful in preventing one this time. While more than 100 people have died in this outbreak so far, it is essential to note that seasonal flu kills between 250,000 and 650,000 people annually – so there’s a higher chance of catching flu than getting coronavirus.