The last major quarantine of an entire urban area took place “in Sierra Leone surrounding the 2014 Ebola epidemic,” said Raina MacIntyre, a doctor and epidemiologist who leads the biosecurity research program at the University of New South Wales. What China is doing is “unprecedented,” she said. “We haven’t seen a lockdown at this level before.”
But it’s a measure that could help prevent a Chinese health crisis from becoming a global one, she said. The World Health Organization has held back from declaring the Wuhan virus an international emergency, with spokesman Tarik Jasarevic saying Friday, “It’s still too early to draw conclusions on how severe the virus is.”
By halting air travel from the region, “it will instantly reduce the risk of cases ending up in other countries,” Dr. MacIntyre said. “Perhaps while there’s so much uncertainty about what’s the source of this infection, what’s the exact mode of transmission — we need to know those things to control the disease — then it’s probably a good strategy.”
Early data show a fatality rate of 14 per cent among those hospitalized for the Wuhan virus, a study published by University of Hong Kong researchers. That compares to roughly 12 per cent of all cases in SARS, and 24 per cent for the subsequent Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERCS), also a coronavirus.
Those figures show that the Wuhan virus does not appear to be as serious as SARS or MERS, since hospitalized cases tend to be the most serious, Dr. MacIntyre said. But the Wuhan virus remains “a serious infection.”
— Mark MacKinnon (@markmackinnon) January 24, 2020