Novel Coronavirus is accelerating its worldwide spread but with fewer deaths
At present, the number of coronavirus cases is increasing at the fastest rate since the start of the pandemic, but mortality rates are falling – which may provide evidence that the virus is getting weaker.
Today, the virus infects more than 16 people per million worldwide, the second highest number since the onset of the disease.
The average number of confirmed cases in the past seven days was 114,000, compared with just 86,000 in the first week of May, as the outbreak rapidly worsened in South America, India and Russia.
But the death toll has not kept pace.
There are currently 0.67 deaths per million people on earth, well below the record high of 1.35 on April 16.
An average of 4,300 people have died each day since 29 May, compared with 5,100 at the beginning of last month.
Novel Coronavirus is spreading rapidly around the world, but its fatality rate is decreasing.
Novel Coronavirus is beginning to weaken
One possible explanation for this trend, though not yet proven, is that the virus may be getting weaker.
The theory was first put forward earlier this week by Alberto Zangrillo, director of Milan’s SAN Rafael Hospital and a former doctor of Silvio Berlusconi.
Dr. Zangrillo noted that the number of viruses detected in patients at the end of May was “negligible” compared with the number of viruses detected earlier in the transmission.
A few days later, he added, the way the virus interacts with its host appears to have changed.
Matteo Bassetti, director of the infectious disease clinic at The SAN Martino Hospital in Genoa, agreed, saying the virus was not as potent today as it was two months ago.
Meanwhile, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center researcher Dr. Donald J. Yelli said today he also believes “the virus is changing.”
In some patterns, he says, the virus has weakened.
He points out that there are fewer positive tests at his hospital and fewer patients on ventilators.
Dr. Donald J. Yelli of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center says the virus is changing
Dr Alberto Zangrillo, of Milan’s SAN Rafael Hospital, thinks the virus may be getting weaker
Opposition from the World Health Organization
But medical staff at the World Health Organisation (WHO) strongly reject the idea that coronavirus is losing its potency.
“The situation has not changed in terms of transmissibility and the situation has not changed in terms of severity,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, an epidemiologist with the WHO.
Martin Hibberd, professor of emerging infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, added that although research was under way, there was “no evidence at the moment” to support the theory.
Who epidemiologist Maria van Kerhoff says there is no evidence that the virus is any less effective
Another explanation for the discrepancy is that coronavirus detection has improved significantly since the start of the pandemic.
Countries around the world are pouring money into improving their detection capabilities and speeding up the process.
In the UK alone, capacity has increased from 2,000 a day at the beginning of March to 200,000 a day at the end of May.
The number of cases worldwide appears to increase as testing capabilities improve and as more people with symptoms are able to confirm a diagnosis.
The disease is currently spreading fastest in countries such as Russia, Mexico and Brazil, which may be contributing to the data distortion.
Globally, coronavirus has infected more than 6.6 million people, of whom about 391,000 have died from the disease.
Other explanations include increased awareness of the disease, which means people are more likely to seek treatment for the disease early, rather than waiting for it to develop into a potentially fatal infection.
Treatments are also improving, and new drugs and more experienced medical staff are also likely reasons for the decline.