(Minghui.org) Eric Feigl-Ding, a public health researcher, has been teaching epidemiology and health at Harvard University for 15 years and has more than 100 publications to his credit. Regarding the recent Coronavirus outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China, he wrote the following on Twitter on January 25, 2020, “It is thermonuclear pandemic-level bad... I'm not exaggerating.”

Highly Contagious

As a consultant to the World Health Organization, advisor and report chairman for the European Commission, Feigl-Ding said this disease is much worse than previous epidemics. The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was reported to have a rate of infection, R0 (pronounced “R naught”) of 3.8, which means one contagious person will transmit the disease to an average of 3.8 other people.

To understand its seriousness, Feigl-Ding compared this number with other epidemics. The seasonal flu usually has an R0 of 1.28, the 2009 flu pandemic (also known as swine flu and which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands) has an R0 of 1.48, and the 1918 Spanish flu (responsible for the deaths of 50-100 million) had an R0 of 1.80.

Although another source reported the Coronavirus’s R0 as 2.6, its seriousness is still highly alarming. Based on data published by the Chinese government on time, location, and confirmed cases, Feigl-Ding said the number of those infected could reach as many as 270,000 in 10 days.

Difficulty of Containment

In comparison, the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003 had an R0 of only 0.4 after quarantine, according to Feigl-Ding in one tweet. This is much lower than the current Coronavirus, which has already spread to all provinces within China and more than 10 countries.

A report published on January 23, 2020, and based on joint efforts from Lancaster University in England, the University of Florida, and the University of Glasgow, said, “We estimate it [R0] to be between 3.6 and 4.0, indicating that 72-75% of transmissions must be prevented by control measures for infections to stop increasing.”

Given the current situation, however, it is estimated that only 5.1% of all the Coronavirus cases are being diagnosed, which means the number of cases will continue to increase. Dr. Jonathan Read, a biostatistics researcher at Lancaster University, concluded that, based on the modeling, that the number of infected could reach 250,000 to 350,000 in 10 days.

“At Least Ten Times Worse Than SARS”

Guan Yi, Director of the State Key Laboratory of Emerging Infectious Diseases at Hong Kong University who used to work on SARS, said in an interview with Caixin magazine on January 23, 2020, “My conservative estimate is that this epidemic could end up at least 10 times the scale of SARS.” Guan went to Wuhan to evaluate the situation on January 21 but returned the following day for his own safety. 

Zhong Nanshan, an expert on respiratory diseases who used to fight SARS, said one patient at a hospital in Wuhan infected 14 healthcare workers. Usually, a disease transmitted from one infected person to ten or more people is considered a “super spreader.”

Kwok-Yung Yuen from the University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital published his research in The Lancet, highlighting transmission of the virus within families. After a family of six in Shenzhen traveled to Wuhan, five of them (about 83%) were infected with the Coronavirus. 

Even before Wuhan City was shut down on January 23, 2020, Gao Yu, Executive Deputy Director of Caixin magazine, said the number of people infected in Wuhan had already exceeded 10,000.