How dangerous is coronavirus? Epidemiologist clarifies

How dangerous is coronavirus? Epidemiologist clarifies

The coronavirus continues to spread - but the question is how deadly the virus really is. The expert has taken a closer look at the issue.

The new coronavirus has shaken the world for a few short January days. Researchers are concerned that the world will suffer a pandemic as contagious and fatal as the Spanish disease, which in 1918-20 killed between 50 and 100 million people. "What I fear most is the plague," says Birgitta Evengård, professor of infectious diseases at Umeå University.

What are the symptoms of infection?

Respiratory symptoms, fever, and cough. In the deaths reported, patients have had another severe underlying disease. The incubation period (the time it takes from the time of infection to the onset of the disease) for coronavirus is 2-14 days.

How does the virus get infected?

It is believed that the virus originally came from the animals, but there is still much that is unknown about how it is spread. It can be spread between people, but no information so far indicates that it is particularly contagious from person to person.

What treatment is given to the infected person?

There is no specific drug or specific treatment for the viral disease. As with other respiratory tract infections, treatment is aimed at supporting the function of organs such as the lungs and kidneys.

The number of people infected by the coronavirus is continually increasing – but at the same time, there is uncertainty about how dangerous the virus really is.

Over a hundred deaths have been reported, which can be considered severe – but these people have had multiple illnesses before being affected by the coronavirus. The public health authority initially stated that most people do not become seriously ill from it.

Is the coronavirus dangerous?

But the picture has changed somewhat as the virus progresses.

– In the beginning, I felt more confident that it was not so dangerous, but now the picture has changed a bit, says state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell.

He thinks the situation can change quickly.

– It definitely looks like it is still less dangerous than the other coronaviruses we have had, ie, sars and mers. But it is difficult to judge, the numbers change so quickly.

A person can infect many with the virus

New calculations show that the number of infected persons can grow from 2,000 people to nearly 190,000 within two weeks since an infected person is expected to be able to infect two to three others.

Now there is also information that a man in Germany has been infected without having been to China. It would then be one of the first cases in Europe where the virus was transmitted from one person to another.

– People talk about more infected at a rapid rate. But it is not clear if there are newly infected people, or if more people are already infected. Therefore, it is difficult to judge. Those who die from the infection do not do it until after maybe five to seven days, says Anders Tegnell.

Symptoms of the coronavirus

The most common symptoms of the coronavirus are that you have respiratory symptoms, fever, and cough. The incubation period of the virus is 2-14 days.

At the time of writing, there are nearly 4,500 confirmed cases of the virus, the majority in China. So far, in Europe, there are four confirmed cases, three in France and one in Germany. 

Since December 31, 2019, until the time of writing, the coronavirus, named 2019-nCoV, has infected 2750 people and killed 80 of them. Most cases have been found in Wuhan, China, but several cases have also been confirmed in other parts of China, as well as in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, and the United States.

The fear that the virus will infect more people and countries means that China has now announced that it will shut down all forms of public traffic out of the country, reports.

Many in the city of Wuhan have bunked up with food and other supplies, Expressen writes. The magazine has been in contact with Johan Björnfot, a hockey coach and chiropractor who is in Wuhan.

– It was full of war when I would buy food. The freezer counter was already cleaned up, and people have started to bunk up in the face of a worst-case scenario, says Johan Björnfot.

Researchers and experts are currently investigating the strength of the virus, how it is infected, and where it comes from. Here’s everything we know about the virus, so far:

Coronavirus family

There are a large number of viruses that belong to the coronavirus family, most of which are found in different animal species. Only a few types of virus can infect animals and humans. The most well-known coronaviruses are called SARS and MERS.


In 2003–2004, the world was hit by an epidemic of a new coronavirus called SARS. The outbreak caused around 8,000 cases, of which over 750 died. Approximately 20 percent of those affected were healthcare professionals. The infection first appeared in China but spread to several countries via travelers. Probably the infection came from bats that infected humans via other animal species.


In 2012, a new variant of coronavirus was discovered on the Arabian Peninsula, causing severe pneumonia and complications from other organs, notably renal failure. The virus is called MERS coronavirus (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus), and the disease is called mers.

Symptoms and complications

In addition to SARS and MERS coronaviruses, which can cause severe lower respiratory tract infection with complications in several organs, including kidney failure. In exceptional cases, however, more severe disease progression with pneumonia may also occur for these coronaviruses, but especially in those with cardiovascular disease, immune defenses, or old age.

There are many indications that the virus was initially spread from animals to humans. Probably in a market in China, but nothing has yet been fixed at 100 percent.

Various media also report that the virus must have come from snakes, and others write that it is bats that are the carriers of infection. In essence, contagion is believed to occur through contact infections or through the air from coughs and sneezes.

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