2019-20 Covid-19 pandemic
The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic is an ongoing pandemic first identified in Wuhan, Hubei, China, in December 2019, and was recognized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 11 March 2020.
As of 24 March, more than 417,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in more than 190 countries and territories, resulting in more than 18,500 deaths.
The severity of a pandemic depends upon the virus that causes it and the coronavirus has proven to be particularly fatal to elderly humans. Coronaviruses are actually a group of related viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds. In humans, coronaviruses cause respiratory tract infections that can be mild, such as some cases of the common cold (among other possible causes, predominantly rhinoviruses), and others that can be lethal, such as SARS, MERS.
Covid-19 is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). SARS was a relatively rare disease; at the end of the epidemic in June 2003, the incidence was 8,422 cases with a case fatality rate (CFR) of 11%. The CFR ranges from 0% to 50% depending on the age group of the patient. Patients under 24 were least likely to die (less than 1%); those 65 and older were most likely to die (over 55%).
Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), is a viral respiratory infection caused by the MERS-coronavirus (MERS-CoV). The disease is typically more severe in those with other health problems. Just under 2,000 cases have been reported as of 4 April 2017. About 36% of those who are diagnosed with the disease die from it. As of 2020 there is no specific vaccine or treatment for the disease.
Historically pandemic influenza has caused widespread damage and death. Influenza pandemics are a regular occurrence in history.
Over thirty pandemics have happened in recorded history. All influenza pandemics infect many times more people than normal seasonal ( flu caused by viruses that are already among people) influenza outbreaks. In addition major pandemics can have severe adverse effects on the economy and daily life.
Flu pandemics occurred in the 20th century with differing levels of intensity.
The 1918 “Spanish Flu” Pandemic
A “major level event” pandemic that accounted for over 50 million deaths world wide. Most influenza outbreaks disproportionately kill the very young and the very old, with a higher survival rate for those in between, but the Spanish flu pandemic resulted in a higher than expected mortality rate for young adults.
The Spanish flu was the first of two pandemics caused by the H1N1 influenza virus; the second was the swine flu in 2009.
The 2009 “Swine Flu” pandemic
The virus appeared to be a new strain of H1N1. According to WHO, the confirmed deaths toll is more than 18,036, although some studies estimated that 11–21% of the global population at the time — or around 700 million–1.4 billion people (out of a total of 6.8 billion) — contracted the illness – more than the number of people infected by the Spanish flu pandemic, with about 150,000 to 575,000 fatalities. A follow-up study done in September 2010 showed that the risk of serious illness resulting from the 2009 H1N1 flu was no higher than that of the yearly seasonal flu. For comparison, the WHO estimates that 250,000 to 500,000 people die of seasonal flu annually.
The 1957-58 “Asian Flu” pandemic
A “minor level event” pandemic that accounted for 69,800 deaths in the United States alone. Estimates of worldwide deaths caused by this pandemic varies widely depending on source; ranging from 1 million to 4 million, with World Health Organization (WHO) settling on “about 2 million”. Asian Flu was of the H2N2 sub-type (a notation that refers to the configuration of the hemagglutinin and neuraminidase proteins in the virus) of type A influenza.
The “Hong Kong Influenza” of 1968-69
A “minor level event “pandemic that killed an estimated one million people all over the world. It was caused by an H3N2 strain of the influenza A virus, descended from H2N2 through antigenic shift, a genetic process in which genes from multiple subtypes reassorted to form a new virus.
One fact is clear: we’ve had pandemics in the past and pandemics will occur again.
The 20th century pandemic examples occurred in waves of illness of up to three waves over a 9-12 month period. Often the first wave was not the most severe. During the 1918 Pandemic, over 90% of the deaths of the pandemic occurred during the second wave.