Written by Williams ABAH

Study estimates spread of coronavirus

New modelling research, published in The Lancet, estimates that up to 75,800 individuals in the Chinese city of Wuhan may have been infected with 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) as of January 25, 2020.

Senior author Professor Gabriel Leung from the University of Hong Kong highlights: "Not everyone who is infected with 2019-nCoV would require or seek medical attention.

During the urgent demands of a rapidly expanding epidemic of a completely new virus, especially when system capacity is getting overwhelmed, some of those infected may be undercounted in the official register."

He explains: "The apparent discrepancy between our modelled estimates of 2019-nCoV infections and the actual number of confirmed cases in Wuhan could also be due to several other factors. These include that there is a time lag between infection and symptom onset, delays in infected persons coming to medical attention, and time taken to confirm cases by laboratory testing, which could all affect overall recording and reporting."

The new estimates also suggest that multiple major Chinese cities might have already imported dozens of cases of 2019-nCoV infection from Wuhan, in numbers sufficient to initiate local epidemics.

The early estimates underscore that it will likely take rapid and immediate scale-up of substantial public health control measures to prevent large epidemics in areas outside Wuhan.

Further analyses suggest that if transmissibility of 2019-nCoV could be reduced, both the growth rate and size of local epidemics in all cities across China could be reduced.

 

"If the transmissibility of 2019-nCoV is similar nationally and over time, it is possible that epidemics could be already growing in multiple major Chinese cities, with a time lag of one to two weeks behind the Wuhan outbreak," says lead author Professor Joseph Wu from the University of Hong Kong.

"Large cities overseas with close transport links to China could potentially also become outbreak epicentres because of substantial spread of pre-symptomatic cases unless substantial public health interventions at both the population and personal levels are implemented immediately."

 

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