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Scientific/Medical Question 27
Can you tell me about COVID-19? And why has it resulted in more death than other pandemics?
COVID-19, also known as coronavirus or novel coronavirus, is an infectious disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2). It was first identified in December 2019, in Hubei province of China. Common symptoms include loss of smell and taste, fever, cough, fatigue and shortness of breath. The virus rarely affects children, and its severity is far more noticeable in those of advanced age, or with underlying comorbidities.
Time from exposure to onset of symptoms is around five days on average. The virus is spread via droplets, but is not thought to be airborne. It is normally diagnosed using PCR.
The disease has not necessarily resulted in more death than other pandemics; the Hong Kong Flu killed between 1 and 4 million people in 1968, 1957’s influenza pandemic killed the same amount, and 1918’s Spanish Flu likely killed more than 50 million people. It is thought that COVID 19’s infection fatality rate is around 0.65%, according to the CDC.
However, it does have a substantial death toll. This is due to how easily transmitted it is - Spanish Flu had an R Naught of between 1.4-2.8. Swine Flu had an R Naught of only around 1.4. In contrast, Coronavirus has recently been found to have an R Naught of 5.7 - meaning one person will infect more than 5 others, if no precautions are taken.