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China: Covid-19 Not as Deadly as Other Coronaviruses

Director-General of the WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, speaks during the news conference on the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Geneva, Switzerland February 11, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says this should be interpreted with great caution because trends can change as new populations are affected.

China has published new data on more than 44,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19, which show the disease is not as deadly as previous coronaviruses including SARS and MERS. The World Health Organization reports more than 70,000 cases, including 1,772 deaths, mostly from China's Hubei province, where the outbreak first surfaced. Cases in 25 countries outside China have increased slightly to 694, including three deaths, one each in the Philippines, Japan and France.

The data appear to show a decline in the number of new cases of coronavirus. But WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said this should be interpreted with great caution because trends can change as new populations are affected.

More than 94 percent of all reported cases in China come from Hubei province. The new cases reported are both clinically and lab-confirmed cases. Tedros said it is too early to tell if the disease is slowing down.

Tedros, however, said the Chinese data appear to indicate that most people who become infected with Covid-19 disease will not die.

“More than 80 percent of patients have mild disease and will recover. In about 14 percent of cases, the virus causes severe disease, including pneumonia and shortness of breath. And, about five percent of patients have critical disease including respiratory failure, septic shock and multi-organ failure,” he said.

Tedros said the fatality rate is at about 2 percent. Those most at risk are elderly people with underlying health conditions. He notes relatively few children have become infected, a mystery that requires more research.

The WHO chief said a team of 12 international experts is on the ground in China and working with Chinese counterparts to get to the bottom of this illness. He says they are trying to better understand the origin of the outbreak and its evolution.