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Coronavirus Infections are Massively Underreported, Warns Hong Kong Academic

Coronavirus Infections are Massively Underreported, Warns Hong Kong Academic
  • Chinese University of Hong Kong professor says official coronavirus tally in Wuhan likely far exceeds official numbers.
  • More than 20,000 confirmed cases are reported from Wuhan, but that only includes patients admitted to hospitals.
  • South Korea reported that a confirmed coronavirus patient had contact with 1,318 people, showing how fast the virus can spread.

The official tally of confirmed coronavirus cases is currently at over 20,628 with 427 deaths. According to a professor at the prestigious Chinese University of Hong Kong, the number of people affected by the virus outbreak likely far exceeds reported numbers.

Why Wuhan coronavirus numbers is said to be much higher

Professor David Hui Shu-cheong, a respiratory medicine expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said that the official numbers of coronavirus cases in Wuhan only includes individuals admitted to hospitals.

He said:

“The official tally in Wuhan could be ‘just the tip of the iceberg’ because it only reflected the acute cases where patients were admitted to hospital.”

The main issue with relying on admitted cases for official numbers is the fact that Wuhan, where the outbreak was first reported, has been unable to handle all of the patients due to a lack of hospitals and infrastructure.

Photographs and videos taken from Wuhan show that hospitals are overwhelmed with long lines for admission [NY Times] and many individuals were sighted collapsing outside hospitals, unable to receive assistance.

Footage from SCMP, a major mainstream publication in Hong Kong, also showed that nurses and hospital staff are extremely overworked. Many nurses are sleeping within the facility in working clothes to save time and to help as many patients as possible.

Man coughs at nurses treating coronavirus in Wuhan (source: SCMP Youtube)

Yet, hospital staff in Wuhan have faced various pushback from patients awaiting to assistance, including death threats.

Simply put, when all of the individuals that have not been admitted to hospitals are considered, experts state that the tally of confirmed cases are likely to be much higher than 20,000.

It may have a lower fatality rate, but it spreads very fast

Compared to SARS in 2003, coronavirus has a lower fatality rate at 2.1%. SARS was four times more deadly than coronavirus [CNN].

SARS and coronavirus are often compared by researchers because SARS was also caused by the mutation of virus in a wet market. SARS is said to have come from civet cats, while the root of coronavirus was found in bats and snakes.

Coronavirus has a relatively low fatality rate but it spreads extremely fast through to human to human transmission.

A study by three researchers at the Hong Kong University found that the coronavirus outbreak can double every 6.4 days.

Recent reports refuted that coronavirus can spread without any symptom at a rapid rate [Science Mag], finding flaws in the argument.

But, efforts of containment, which continues to be the main narrative around the coronavirus outbreak, were poor from both China and nearby countries like South Korea.

South Korea saw another case of coronavirus confirmed in February. The government said that 1,318 individuals had contact with patients with coronavirus [Yonhap].

It may potentially leave the nation vulnerable to a substantially larger number of confirmed cases in the near future.

So far, based on various data, low fatality put together with deaths primarily reported by old individuals indicate that healthy individuals are likely to recover from the virus over time.

This article was edited by Samburaj Das.

Last modified: February 4, 2020 1:06 PM UTC

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