The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak: is the end in sight?


13th February 2020


Since we last posted, there have been a few key developments. The epi curve of the outbreak seemed to be plateauing, but then took a step-change upward, suggesting that the end is not yet in sight. Also, the disease the virus causes now has a name: COVID-19!

There have now been almost 60,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally, with 99% of those cases identified in China. The epidemic seemed to be peaking. However, the emerging news yesterday (13/02/2020) saw a dramatic increase in cases. This is due to a change in the diagnostic approach to defining a “case”. This was previously based on a positive laboratory test. However, for reasons that are not entirely clear, the case definition has moved to a positive laboratory test OR suspected cases based on symptoms and chest imaging tests (CT scan/X-ray).


The multi-national response to this emerging outbreak has been extraordinary – as you can imagine, our office in China has been exceptionally busy supporting the response to the outbreak. But this latest increase in cases suggests we need to go even further to bring this outbreak under control. On the positive side, there is a suggestion that the detection of COVID-19 outside of China is beginning to slow down (if we take out the unique cases of transmission related to cruise ships).

The virus itself now has a name: it’s called the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), in recognition that it is a “sister virus” to the SARS coronavirus. The disease caused by this virus has been termed the Coronavirus Disease 19 (COVID-19). Although there is a suggestion that these new names might get rationalised to one in future!

Let’s hope that we see a downturn in the epi curve soon, and that this emerging infectious disease that has already taken the lives of more than 1,300 people will be consigned to history soon.

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