Paris (AFP)

Several major viral epidemics have started in China in recent decades, such as the new coronavirus that appeared in December in the city of Wuhan (center).

- 2003: Sras -

The SARS virus (severe acute respiratory syndrome) emerged in late 2002 in southern China after being transmitted from the bat, its "natural reservoir", to humans by the masked palm civet, a wild mammal sold alive on markets in southern China for its meat.

This "coronavirus" (crown-shaped virus) proves to be formidably contagious, causing acute pneumonia, sometimes fatal.

From spring 2003, it caused a real psychosis in Asia, especially in China, Hong Kong and Singapore, the World Health Organization (WHO) having launched an international health alert on March 12.

The epidemic will be responsible, in the end, for 774 dead for 8,096 people affected in thirty countries, China and Hong Kong, concentrating 80% of the victims.

- 1997: avian influenza A (H5N1) -

Avian influenza A (H5N1) kills for the first time in Hong Kong in 1997, causing the death of six people before reappearing in 2003 in Southeast Asia, causing a total of 282 deaths for 468 cases in 15 countries (assessment 2003-2009 of the WHO).

However, this virus is mainly found in birds, especially farmed poultry, and infections in humans are due to direct contact with these animals.

We cannot therefore speak of a human epidemic of avian influenza, since human-to-human transmission is ineffective or minimal. Fear is an evolution of the virus into a form that is easily transmitted from person to person.

- 1968: Hong Kong flu -

A new influenza A virus (one of the three types of seasonal influenza) spread from July 1968 in Hong Kong where it infected half a million people, or 15% of the population, before spreading to the Then reach the United States in the fall and Europe.

Considered as the first pandemic of the modern era, aggravated by the multiplication of air travel, this epidemic led to strong international mobilization, coordinated by the WHO. In November 1968, effective vaccines were developed.

The toll of this pandemic is estimated at one million deaths (figure quoted by the American organization for the surveillance and prevention of diseases CDC).

- 1957: Asian flu -

The first cases of this flu, also of type A, were spotted in February 1957 in the Chinese province of Guizhou (south-west). The virus then spreads throughout China and throughout Asia and then worldwide to cause the most significant pandemic since the Spanish flu of 1918, with an estimated total number of deaths of 1.1 million (figure cited by the CDC).

© 2020 AFP