Army soldiers spray disinfectant as a precaution against a new coronavirus at an apartment building in Daegu, South Korea (AP)
NEW DELHI: The death rate due to novel coronavirus is far higher than that of seasonal influenza, which was so far considered to kill more people. Not just that, the new virus, to which no one has immunity, also causes more severe diseases than the seasonal flu, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said indicating that more people are susceptible to infection than was estimated and some will suffer severe disease.
“Globally about 3.4% of reported Covid-19 cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
In its latest situation report, the UN agency said the reproductive number – the number of secondary infections generated from one infected individual – is understood to be between 2 and 2.5 for Covid-19 virus, higher than for influenza.
Latest data suggests 80% of coronavirus infections are mild or asymptomatic, 15% are severe infection, requiring oxygen and 5% are critical infections, requiring ventilation, according to WHO.
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The coronavirus outbreak – which originated in Wuhan, China – has infected around 1,10,041 people from more than 90 countries so far and killed 3,825 people. The virus causes a disease known as Covid-19.
Experts said the death rate is likely to change further as more cases are confirmed and the percentage of deaths are expected to decline as currently milder cases of Covid-19 are probably going undiagnosed.
Highlighting the differences between the novel coronavirus and other infectious diseases like MERS, SARS and influenza, Tedros said evidence shows that Covid-19 did not transmit as efficiently as the flu, which can be transmitted widely by people who are infected but not yet showing symptoms.
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Chances of dying from Covid-19 varies based on several factors such as where patients are treated, age and existing disease conditions.
“We understand that people are afraid and uncertain. Fear is a natural human response to any threat, especially when it’s a threat we don’t completely understand. But as we get more data, we are understanding this virus, and the disease it causes, more and more. This virus is not SARS, it’s not MERS, and it’s not influenza. It is a unique virus with unique characteristics,” Tedros said.
Both Covid-19 and influenza cause respiratory disease and spread the same way, via small droplets of fluid from the nose and mouth of someone who is sick.
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