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Coronavirus likely now ‘gathering steam’

Coronavirus likely now ‘gathering steam’

Patients in a makeshift hospital in China.

Leaky international cordon may mean equivalent of worst flu season in modern times

The number of confirmed cases of the Wuhan coronavirus have continued to surge inside China, sickening tens of thousands, with a death toll of more than 1,000. But outside the Asian giant the numbers remain a fraction of that, a trend Harvard’s Marc Lipsitch views with suspicion. Lipsitch thinks it is just a matter of time before the virus spreads widely internationally, which means nations so far only lightly hit should prepare for its eventual arrival in force and what may seem like the worst flu season in modern times. Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and head of the School’s Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, talked to the Gazette about recent developments in the outbreak and provided a look ahead.

Q&A

Marc Lipsitch

GAZETTE:  We spoke about the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak about a week and a half ago. What do we know now that we didn’t know then?

LIPSITCH:  We know that the spread is even greater than it was then. It was likely then that it would spread more widely, but there was still hope for containment. I think now that it’s in more countries — even Singapore, which is really good at tracing cases, has found some cases that aren’t linked to previous known cases — it’s clear that there are probably many cases in countries where we haven’t yet found them. This is really a global problem that’s not going to go away in a week or two.

GAZETTE:  You indicated that the rapid increase in cases was largely due to existing cases that hadn’t been diagnosed rather than new infections. Is that still your sense, or is some of the daily increase in cases due to new transmission?

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