How Worried Should You Be About the Wuhan Coronavirus?

We will soon learn if humanity's increasing biotechnical prowess can prevent a modern pandemic.


Some 2,800 people have been infected and 81 have been killed by the new coronavirus that began spreading from a seafood market where wild animals were sold for food in Wuhan, China. Public health officials have quarantined 50 million people in the region surrounding Wuhan and report that more than 30,000 people who have had close contact with infected persons are currently under close medical observation.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has screened some 2,400 travelers arriving from Wuhan at five major airports. Of the 110 people that the agency is tracking and testing for infection, five have tested positive, 32 have tested negative, and results are still pending for 73 people.

Some evidence has emerged that infected people may be contagious before they show signs of infection. If so, this would make it more difficult for public health officials to prevent further spread of the disease by tracing, tracking, treating, and medically isolating people who may have come into contact with infected folks.

In trying to predict how the disease may spread, epidemiologists are trying to figure out what the basic reproduction number (R0) is for the new coronavirus—that is, the number of people on average to whom an infected person will pass along the disease. For example, the R0 for seasonal influenza is estimated to be around 1.3 people exposed to an infected person. According to CDC data, 35.5 million Americans suffered from flu last year and 34,200 died of it, yielding a mortality rate of around 0.1 percent.

A preliminary study by Chinese researchers suggest that the R0 is around 3 for the Wuhan coronavirus, meaning it's more contagious than seasonal influenza. That study also noted that by January 24, some 1,287 cases had been confirmed, resulting in 41 deaths. Those raw numbers yield an alarming mortality rate of over 3 percent. (For what it's worth, the Rfor the Black Death in medieval Europe was also around 3, but the mortality rate after disease onset was close to 100 percent.)

A preprint by British researchers analyzing the epidemic in Wuhan estimated that only about 5 percent of infections had been actually identified by January 24 which suggests that about 26,000 people were then suffering from the disease. If that estimate is correct, a rough calculation would yield a 0.15 percent mortality rate for the Wuhan virus. Parsing the latest reported cases and deaths yields essentially the same mortality rate. The coronavirus mortality rate is a bit above the seasonal flu rate in the U.S., but not hugely so.

Of course, these crude and provisional calculations do not warrant complacency. On the other hand, the speed with which Chinese scientists using modern biomedical technologies identified the virus and subsequently provided public health agencies and researchers around the world with the genetic information needed to track it is heartening. We will soon learn if humanity's increasing biotechnical prowess combined with vigorous public health responses can prevent Wuhan's coronavirus from developing into a modern pandemic.

NEXT: New York's Progressive Rent Regulations Having the Exact Same Negative Consequence That Skeptics Predicted

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  1. Eh, never mind, it’s obviously still your fault that Trump caused Global Warming, I believe will be the consensus of the Trumpista commenters.

    1. Bless your heart.

    2. You’re verging on being broken

    3. Hi SQRLSY

      “modern pandemic.”

      Oh God STFU.

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  2. I worried myself to death.

  3. I like my coronavirus with a slice of limevirus in it.

    1. Lyme disease.

      “I like my Coronavirus with a slice of Lyme disease”

  4. The Black Plague was a bacteria, this is a virus.

    1. Virus? I’ve got MacAfee. I’m good.

      1. Chinese not russian.

    2. Which is utterly irrelevant to the topic.

      1. Rtfa dumbass

  5. Wuhan virus ain’t nuthin to fuck with.

    1. WuhanWuhan
      Got you all in check

      1. ‘Causin’ terror, quick damage ya whole era.’

        …creepin up on site, now it’s Fright Night.

  6. Bat Soup
    Bat Soup
    Bat Soup
    Bat Soup Bat Soup Bat Soup
    Paul Joseph Watson

  7. What? Me worry?

    1. Mayor Pete?

  8. Well, I hate to minimize the threat, but it’s obvious that comments on this subject have not, at least for the present time, gone “viral.”
    (Sorry! I just couldn’t resist.)

  9. Some 2,800 people have been infected and 81 have been killed by the new coronavirus

    Hey, I survived the Ebola epidemic that swept the US about 8 years ago. You’re going to have to get that death rate up if you want me to panic.

    1. Obama drove right by my apartment (to the CDC) for that one.
      I was gonna cause trouble, but the cop blocking off my complex was friendly

  10. “the R0 for the Black Death in medieval Europe was also around 3, but the mortality rate after disease onset was close to 100 percent”

    Not to quibble, but I don’t think this is quite accurate. If by “Black Death” you mean bubonic plague, then I think mortality rates are around 50-60%. Pneumonic plague and septicemic plague approach mortality rates of %100, but I don’t believe all infections of Yersinia pestis inevitably lead to these more severe forms of the disease.

    1. And that was back before Europe had universal health care, so there’s that.

      1. Thanks, Unicorn, that was just too good. “Universal Health Care”? Did they have Blue Shields and Red Crosses? They did, and all THAT didn’t help them one bit! Universal Health Care my ass.

        1. Your dead body got picked up and thrown in the cart regardless of your income!

          1. I’m not dead yet!

            1. A man driving past a cemetery points it out to his young son and says “We can’t be buried in that cemetery.”.

              “Why not?” his son asked.

              “Because we aren’t dead.”

    2. When it comes to plagues I don’t see color.

      1. And when it comes to color unrelated to plague?

        C’mon man, I wanna be offended here.

        Nyuk nyuk.

    3. Maybe that’s just a quibble. Whether half the people got infected and all died, or all got infected and half died … same thing to the end results.

      1. No, it really isn’t SQRLSY

      2. Only if the half that get it and survive have no ill effects at all.

    4. Hey, smart guy, I defy you to find me one single survivor of the medieval Black Plague. You can’t! Because they’re all dead!

      1. Everybody dies of something.
        But who gets the lime?

    5. If by “Black Death” you mean bubonic plague, then I think mortality rates are around 50-60%.

      The fourteenth century in Europe saw bubonic, septicemic and pneumonic plagues.

      As a general rule “Black Death” refers to the pneumonic version, since where it hit it spread like wildfire and killed at pretty much 100%.

      1. I dunno, maybe you’re right, but I’ve never seen the term used in a narrow sense like that.

        Granted, the 50-60% mortality rate I’ve seen is for modern untreated cases. Sanitation and hygiene of the 14th century might have led to much higher mortality rates.

    6. Ohhhhh, look at professor farnham over here!

      1. That’s MR. Farhham to you. I didn’t not go to six years of postgraduate school to be called Dr.

  11. This thread it infectious. It’s humorous and not deadly. However, we could die laughing, and that’s not too bad a fate.

    1. Unless you’re a diabolical madman, still laughing as the cops have you boxed in.

  12. On the other hand, the speed with which Chinese scientists using modern biomedical technologies identified the virus and subsequently provided public health agencies and researchers around the world with the genetic information needed to track it is heartening.

    Or alarming, if you subscribe to the theory that the new corona virus was actually created by the Chinese as a biological weapon but, given the lax attitude toward public safety in China, the virus escaped the lab. When their first attempt to suppress knowledge of the outbreak failed and the magnitude of the disaster became apparent, China released a warning about the virus that included the genetic information about the virus not because they were so quick to discover it but because they knew exactly what it was all along.

    But I’m also concerned that Ron never answered the question of how worried I should be. Should I be killer clown-level worried, teen vaping-level worried, satanic rituals in daycare centers-level worried? I gotta know!

    1. Human trafficking worried.

      1. Tell that to the McCanns

      2. Trump is literally Hitler worried

    2. Word is they stole it from Canada

    3. Well yeah, if you subscribe to that theory you should worry bigly.

    4. What’s worrisome is that no matter how bad it gets Chinese libertarians will still insist on not regulating wild meat markets and American libertarians will still insist on open borders for plague-ridden countries.

      1. It’s Wombat taco Tuesday!

      2. You some type of commie loser, trying to stop me from getting my ostrich jerky?

        (But seriously, Ostrich jerky is good)

    5. If you believe that you have bigger things to worry about.

      1. “If you believe that you have bigger things to worry about.”

        I don’t know, sounds as plausible as any other batshit crazy thing that happens. And I like a good conspiracy yarn

  13. Maybe this is one of Mother Earth’s ideas for fighting climate change.

  14. Cool map of spread of coronavirus in China

    The current spread outside Hubei province is roughly what the spread was inside Hubei province when Ron wrote that previous piece on Jan 17. Not the same death rate (yet?) – and looks like a higher recovery:fatality ratio so far.

    If this is still spreading when Lunar New Year ends next week, China will almost inevitably have to shut down – except for rush constructions of new hospitals in 5 days.

    1. Between the time I posted this link – and now, the number of confirmed cases went from 2927 to 4474 – the number of deaths from 80-something to 107

      1. Yea…
        Methinks China isn’t exactly being forthright about all this

        1. On the bright side, 107/4474 is a lower fatality rate than 80/2800.
          2.4% vs 2.9%
          So, we all got that going for us

        2. My guess is that China’s people are smart enough to know volunteering that you have the deadly virus has the potential to end with lead poisoning.

    2. Wait, they’re building new hospitals in 5 days in response to this?

      Those little guys don’t fuck around!

      1. Schedule, cost or quality. Pick any two (or any one, if you’re a government).

        1. (or any zero*…)

  15. Some 2,800 people

    Some experts (that’s right, I can do it too) have placed the real number around 10x that.

    1. That’s the number of confirmed cases. Hubei has 30,000 people who are being watched/tracked – presumably in hospital. That’s why they are rush building hospitals.

      Just like the US has 5 confirmed cases and 110 people being monitored.

      That’s all known info. If the ’10x’ is simply that, then it’s a big ho-hum cuz that means it’s already contained. If the ’10x’ is a fear-mongering click-baity number – that means 30k unknowingly infected and 300k who may become symptomatic – still walking around spreading disease in Hubei. And I call bullshit. More likely, it’s maybe a 2x.

      The big spread will likely be a second wave – not the first one. The first wave usually creates a population that’s still infected but now immune and symptom-free. So the all-clear gets sounded – and that’s when it goes around the world. The 1918 flu was three waves here in the US – Mar/Apr with a few hundred cases and a dozen or two deaths; late Sep-Nov with unknown cases and maybe 200k deaths; early 1919 with unknown cases and prob 400k deaths.

      1. Listen, you’re a known liar and idiot so stop presuming anyone cares about your worthless pontificating

        1. He’s actually right about this one, SPB. Spanish Flu’s first wave wasn’t all that deadly, mostly killing folks who were either already weak or had mitigating factors (they were old, sick with something else, heart disease, etc). The second wave though was much stronger and deadlier. The reason it’s called Spanish Flu is that even though it started in other countries first, Spain was one of the few who reported on it (especially after their King got sick). All the participants in WWI didn’t, because they viewed it as sensitive info that would let the enemy know they had a large portion of men unable to fight.

          Extra History on Youtube has a great series on it if you’re interested.

          1. Ironically, while we aren’t 100% sure how Spanish Flu came to the US, there’s a theory that Chinese “volunteers” for WWI traveling to Europe by crossing the US brought it over.

            Help, I want off China’s wild ride.

  16. You know how it goes, Muslims to imprison, Tibetans to oppress, organs to harvest, Taiwan and Hong Kong to bully, social scores to be tallied etc… sometimes things like epidemics fall between the cracks.
    “To make the scenario worse, two female tourists from Wuhan proudly filmed their arrival to Lhasa and said they don’t care about the disease. An anonymous Tibetan scholar from Lhasa did not hold back: “China deliberately let these infected people go to Tibet and Xinjiang, two most visible regions in Chinese politics to challenge against their ethnic assimilation.”

    1. Coronavirus vs. Lassa Hemorrhagic Fever?

  17. I think china government hiding the real death number. It is obvious that thousands of people were died.

  18. 79,000 people died in the USA (during 2017-2018) from Influenza.

    1. The CDC numbers from the link in the article give 61,099 for the 2017-18 flu season

    2. “79,000 people died in the USA (during 2017-2018) from Influenza.”

      The US CDC estimates the lethality of flu in the US at around 0.15%. It appears that Corona Virus is between 2 to 3% lethal. So, 15 to 20 times worse.

  19. Globalism and open borders are so fucking awesome! Come for the cheap labor and lead paint toys for toddlers, stay for the untreatable global pandemics!

  20. Look, I get the macabre jokes. You kind of have to find humor wherever you can get it. But I’d like Unreason Readership to consider these more serious things.

    First, does anyone believe the Chinese government numbers? I do not, and I think they’re off by a decimal place…..BEST case.

    Second, does anyone really think this was a naturally occurring phenomenon? The virus was transmitted by bats and snakes in a seafood market. Sorry, but that sounds….fishy. NFW. The truth will come out when the gene sequences of this RNA coronavurus are studied in detail. I believe we will find gene sequences that do not occur in nature.

    Third, the time is NOW to take active, preventative measures. Stop any international travel plans and reschedule. Avoid cities, and any mass transit (bus, train, trolley, plane) where there are confined spaces with a lot of people. Do your shopping on off hours, when fewest people are present. Stock up on hand sanitizer, wash hands at least 1X hourly and do not touch your face w/o washing your hands first. Stay away from sick people with coughs. Taking these commonsense measures now will materially improve your chances of not contracting the virus.

    Fourth, in about a week, Wall Street will wake up and realize that a major component of our supply chain, China, ain’t sending us dick for products. That will be interesting.

    Stay safe!

    1. The truth will come out when the gene sequences of this RNA coronavurus are studied in detail. I believe we will find gene sequences that do not occur in nature.

      They have done that. The gene sequence shows a 96% similarity at the whole gene level to a bat coronavirus – and 79.5% similarty to SARS. 96% really ain’t that close – but it’s still in the range of mutations of that particular bat sample (which was from a bat from Yunnan province). My guess is they don’t have thousands of bat virus samples but if they did they would find many varieties of mutation and could track it down to an immediate mutation that preceded the species jump – and possibly a further mutation that allows for human-human transmission (which may have occurred coincidentally in the bat or late last year in humans). But that is relatively pointless busywork for a lab to do at this point.

      1. They have a gene map. They haven’t done the analysis yet. That will take some months to dig down. We need to know the truth: was this naturally occurring or not?

  21. In a bit of macabre irony, North Korea has shut its border with China.

    You don’t get to kill our people you capitalist free-travelling pig-dogs. Only we get to kill our people.

    1. They did that about a week ago.

      One of the things that made me go, “Oh shit, this might not just be another flu.” I want to say they also stopped tourism period at that time, not just Chinese tour groups. Tourism is how they get a lot of their not-selling-meth-to-Japan hard currency.

      Embarrassing China is also not something in their normal governmental public habits.

      I think the official Chinese numbers are bullshit, but things aren’t so bad that China will turn into The Stand. They’ll probably hide the death toll as other pneumonias, other pulmonary diseases, maybe class them as arising from other co-morbidities.

      You’ll only know what happened by noticing their total deaths baseline rose in 2020.

  22. Are you seriously believing the numbers the Chinese are giving out?

    1. So it might be less?

  23. Do I trust Big Pharma on this? Never. Do I trust natural remedies and a healthy immune system…always.

  24. Lots of unanswered question because of various governments and government bodies lying and prevaricating. Tweets from China confirm that the Chinese government if outright lying about the death rate by calling Coronavirus deaths pneumonia. Nothing concrete will be known until the virus gets a foothold in the west. Then a accurate death rate and R0 can be determined. Probably a worse epidemic than the conventional wisdom proclaims.

  25. I too like to trust that China is doing everything it can to help stop the spread of a virus its medical labs were right around the corner, just like Umbrella with the T-Virus.

    Alas, I cannot. Winnie the Pooh is even worse than Albert Wesker, and I wouldn’t trust Albert Wesker for anything other than to research ways to kill me.

  26. Do not worry.

    Other people are worrying for you.

    Worry when they cannot deal with it. You are far from that.

  27. So many people want to travel and do medical tourism. I also want to go abroad for medical tourism, for example, I found this website bookimed here you can find more places there for this. Who is already using such sites? How to protect yourself from coronavirus?

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