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Covid-19: The dynamics of a global outbreak


How is Sars-CoV-2 developing? Data reveals how dangerous the coronavirus outbreak is and why we cannot trust certain numbers. The epidemic in graphics

With new cases of infection in Germany, the coronavirus Sars-CoV-2 has once again moved closer to the population. The risk of getting infected here is still very low. Nevertheless, reports about the new pathogen that is currently going around the world are unsettling. Not everything is known about him yet. But some things can now be traced.

The first infections with the new corona virus occurred at the end of last year. Residents of the central Chinese city of Wuhan initially came to the hospital with enigmatic lung diseases. Cities of millions near Wuhan were soon affected and the virus quickly spread to the whole world via infected travelers and business people. In the meantime, tens of thousands of cases have been officially confirmed - and the number is slowly approaching the 100,000 mark. Researchers assume that we are on the brink of the pandemic.

Figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) and health authorities from China, the United States or the European Union, compiled by CSSE from Johns Hopkins University, show how the outbreak developed. Within the few weeks from the beginning of January to the end of February, the number of officially reported infections increased from a few dozen to more than 80,000. The number of deaths has now exceeded 2,700 and continues to rise.

High number of unreported cases, different counting methods

The statistics currently available on the outbreak of the corona virus should be treated with caution. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that it is particularly difficult for authorities in an epidemic situation as large as that in China to keep an overview. Experts believe that there is still a large number of unreported patients who are infected but whose cases have not yet been officially registered.

In addition, there were different views of who should be registered as a corona case during the outbreak. This is shown by the jump on February 13th. What happened? At least one Chinese health authority changed its counting method on that day, that in the particularly affected Hubei province. Cases in which the laboratory tests were positive were previously registered. However, since these tests did not always reliably indicate the virus, those who have been diagnosed with the new disease Covid-19 based on the symptoms have also been counted since then. Although the counting method may vary, one thing is certain: the number of corona cases continues to increase.

The new virus belongs to the corona virus family, similar to the Sars virus. Again and again the two viruses are compared. And by name, the new Sars-CoV-2 virus is a successor to the old Sars-Cov virus, which triggered an epidemic in 2002 and 2003 with tens of thousands of people infected. But the case numbers clearly show that the two outbreaks can hardly be compared with each other.

The disease caused by the new corona virus spreads much faster than Sars. At the beginning of the millennium, less than 5,000 people became infected at the same time, according to the WHO. The number of deaths is significantly higher in the current outbreak, which is due to the fact that many more people have been infected with the virus. Just two months after the outbreak began, more people had died of the new Covid-19 disease than Sars in total.

Nevertheless, the high numbers do not mean that the many thousands of people affected are seriously ill. Older patients and chronically ill people in particular suffer from fever, cough, shortness of breath and, in particularly severe cases, pneumonia, which can also be fatal. For far more infected people, the disease is rather harmless, they only notice slight signs of a cold and recover quickly. On the one hand, the number of deaths is continuously increasing, on the other hand there are more and more recovered people.

The virus is spreading across Europe

Until recently, the outbreak was mainly concentrated in China and some surrounding countries, including Japan and South Korea in particular. But now Italy has developed into another center of the outbreak, there are now more infected people than in Japan. In the north of the country, authorities reacted by temporarily closing schools and kindergartens, the Venice Carnival was canceled, as were games of the first Italian football league.

No emergency in Germany yet

The risk for other cases has also increased for Germany. Since the end of January there have been around 20 patients with a Covid 19 infection in this country. 14 cases occurred in Bavaria. They belong to a so-called infection cluster, and their infections can all be traced back to an infected person from China who entered the country. There are also corona patients in Baden-Württemberg, North Rhine-Westphalia and two others belonged to a group of around 120 people who had been brought to Germany from Wuhan in early February. The remaining returnees from this group were able to leave the quarantine in mid-February. They had previously spent two weeks in a barracks in Germersheim, Rhineland-Palatinate. The virus was not detected in any of them. The same applies to another group of returnees who until recently were isolated in Berlin-Köpenick. They were also able to leave the quarantine after having been repeatedly tested negative.

Read more about the new corona virus, its possible origin and the epidemic here.

Source: zeit

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