Like many of you I have followed the news and reports of the new coronavirus burst in China and its spread out in the world. My reactions are ranging from fear of global pandemic and collapse of global order and economy to calm and hope and trust in all the medical expertise out there. Five years ago, the largest ebola outbreak ever was at its peak, mostly in African countries. It scared me too, and fear intensify my need of understanding and control. It’s one of my classic reactions. I followed the news and WHO reports and compiled the data into statistics and graphs of ebola spreading. Although the world panic is over the ebola disease is still active in African countries with new cases identified and new outbreaks repeating. Scientists and enthusiasts today use sophisticated tools with AI and big data, but I put my trust in the simple and use manual data collection and forge it together in excel. The intensity of the outbreak is astonishing and scary. In just a few weeks we have seen över 20 000 people diagnosed with the new virus. The vast majority of these are in China but the flu has been identified in 23 more countries, including Sweden. The data in WHO’s situation reports on Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV as of 2020-02-04 show 20 630 cases and 426 deaths.
Like many other diseases the virus is spreading exponentially, as one infected person transfer the virus to several others before diagnosed and quarantined. The insecurity of the numbers is also important to stress. These are the number of reported and diagnosed people. The total number of infected people are larger, maybe much larger. Some or many infected might not have been diagnosed by a doctor. Many haven’t yet realised they are infected. But the number of diagnosed cases and identified fatalities due to infection is scary enough. Read more interesting reflections on epidemic statistics.
On a global scale the virus hasn’t spread that far yet, but still shows an exponential growth. If quarantines and travel restrictions will keep the virus contained in few areas inside China or not is something we just need to wait and see, or use more sophisticated algorithms to find out. Exponentiality always starts somewhere, and although the global numbers of cases are low, they can rise fast if the virus get carried around and not observed in time.
Please note that both charts work with double scales. Due to the large differences between cases and deaths in first chart, and the large differences between China and the rest of the world the trend lines correspond to either left or right scale. The reason is to show the exponential growth in all curves.