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China coronavirus: A new SARS?

An outbreak of a new type of coronavirus has killed at least 26 people in China.
An outbreak of a new type of coronavirus has killed at least 26 people in China. © AFP / FRANCE 24

The outbreak in China of a new form of coronavirus, the same family of virus as SARS, has raised fears of an international pandemic, like the one that killed nearly 800 people in 2003 and 2004. But just how deadly is the new virus and how worried should we be? FRANCE 24 spoke to infectious disease specialist Dr. Anne Cori to find out.


The virus, which first appeared in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, has claimed at least 26 lives so far, with more than 800 confirmed cases.

According to Dr. Cori, the genome of the new virus shows it is a close relation of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), though for the time being is much less deadly.

“It is still too early to say if the mortality rate is in the same order of that as SARS, which was at 10 percent, which is high,” she told FRANCE 24, but added: “It’s clear the new virus is fairly severe, as people have died from it.”

How rapidly and how far it spreads will depend largely on how easily the virus, which is believed to have begun with an animal-to-human transmission, is spread among humans.

“All the epidemics we have seen have been due mainly to human-to-human transmission,” she said. “For the moment, we’re not in a position to say the same thing for the new virus.”


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