Wuhan [Novel] Coronavirus vs. SARS: Deaths, Statistics & More Comparisons

Getty Temple-goers, some wearing masks, offer incense and pray at Seng Guan Temple on the eve of the Chinese New Year on January 24, 2020 in Manila, Philippines.

The Wuhan (novel) coronavirus is still a huge unknown in terms of the impact it is going to have or the lives that will be lost. So far, more than 1,000 people have confirmed infections. Here’s a comparison between the Wuhan coronavirus and SARS, including source and deaths as known so far. Of course, all of this is subject to change as we learn more about Wuhan, but this is what is known so far.

The number of confirmed cases globally for the novel coronavirus stands at 1,356 people (also called the Wuhan coronavirus or, technically, 2019-nCoV.) There have been 41 fatalities, all in China, CNBC reported.


Both SARS & the Novel Coronavirus Are Coronaviruses – But So Is the Common Cold

Officially, the virus is called 2019-nCoV (at least until an “easier” name is given to it.) Most people refer to it as either the Wuhan coronavirus or the novel coronavirus. This virus and SARS are from the same “family” of viruses. In fact, coronavirus can even include the common cold, wrote Dr. Emily Landon, an infectious disease specialist on UChicago Medicine’s website.

SARS is technically called SARS-CoV and was first reported in 2003, according to the CDC.


Both SARS & the Novel Coronavirus Originated in Live Animal Markets in China

The novel coronavirus originated in animals in the Wuhan, China region. The first cluster of cases was reported around New Year’s Eve and the strain was identified on January 9, UChicago Medicine shared. It was traced to a food market in the Hubei Province, where live animals of all kinds were kept in cages alive and even skinned in front of shoppers.

The novel coronavirus is thought to have originated in snakes according to one study, LiveScience reported.

SARS also started in one of these markets, although not in the same region. It was first labeled a global threat in March 2003 and its first appearance was in southern China around November 2002. SARS is believed to have originated in bats that had infected civets, LiveScience reported.


Both Can Be Transmitted Human-to-Human

Wuhan is known to have some human-to-human transmission, particularly in close contact situations (this would mean within about six feet for a prolonged time without any protection, UChicago Medicine shared.) Direct contact with secretions, like being coughed on, might also spread it. This is similar to how the flu spreads.

SARS also spread mainly through close person-to-person contact, according to the CDC. This could include caring or living with someone, sharing eating utensils, talking within three feet, or direct physical contact. Simply walking by a person or sitting across a room briefly does not qualify as close contact, the CDC noted.


Comparing the Symptoms of SARS & the Novel Coronavirus

The beginning symptoms of the novel coronavirus are similar to the flu or cold, including a fever, cough, and congestion. Some will only have mild symptoms and it won’t progress. Others may develop severe pneumonia. This is also the case with the flu.

For SARS, the virus typically began as a fever of higher than 100.4 °F, sometimes with chills, a headache, aches, and discomfort. Some had mild respiratory issues at first. About 10 to 20 percent developed diarrhea. Patients often developed a dry cough and felt short of breath within two to seven days and most developed pneumonia, according to the CDC. At this time, it’s thought that in contrast, some novel coronavirus patients only have mild symptoms and not everyone develops pneumonia.


The Novel Coronavirus May Be Less Deadly than SARS, but the Death Rate Is Still Being Determined

The exact death rate for the virus isn’t yet known, since numbers coming out of China can be tough to confirm. UChicago Medicine’s website reported that at the present, it looks similar to SARS in some ways, except perhaps less deadly.

CNBC also reported that some experts believe so far that the coronavirus is less deadly than SARS or MERS.

As far as the novel coronavirus is concerned, Professor Neil Ferguson of London told Fox 61 that the death rate might be 2%, but it’s too soon to tell. Also, he added, the Spanish flu’s worldwide death rate was much higher than 2%, possibly around 10%, although it was indeed at 2% within the U.S. and UK. He said he didn’t want to scare people into thinking the novel coronavirus had the same death rate as the Spanish Flu, he simply wanted people to know that it was a serious virus.


Cases & Deaths of Novel Coronavirus vs. SARS

Of course, with the novel coronavirus being so new, it can’t be fully compared to SARS. But looking at statistics and numbers can still be helpful. The very first cases of the novel coronavirus were in Wuhan, China on December 31, LiveScience reported.

The first case in the U.S. was on January 21 in Washington state, from a man who had traveled from Wuhan. The man is in his 30s. A second case in the U.S. was confirmed on January 24 in Chicago, from a woman who had also recently been in Wuhan. But both cases are doing well.

The CDC is monitoring more than 60 people in 22 states in the United States, LiveScience reported. Eleven people have tested negative and two (listed above) tested positive. Although some states are releasing information on who is being monitored and where, not all state are because many patients end up testing negative. It’s important to remember that this is also cold and flu season and the beginning symptoms are similar.

So far, 1,356 people have been confirmed to have the novel coronavirus (also called the Wuhan coronavirus or, technically, 2019-nCoV.) There have been 41 fatalities, all in China, CNBC reported.

Most of the people who have died from 2019-nCoV at this point were older than 60 and/or had pre-existing conditions, LiveScience reported. A healthy man of about 36 did die in Wuhan, Time reported. He was admitted to a hospital on January 9 with a high fever that he’d had for three days. He died on January 23 after a cardiac arrest. It’s important to remember that even with the flu, a healthy young person will occasionally die. So it’s not clear if the young man is a sign of who might be at risk or an outlier.

SARS, in contrast, killed 1 in 10 people, LiveScience reported. In May 2003, it was reported that the overall fatality was 14 to 15%, with people older than 64 facing a 50% fatality rate, but a rate of less than 1% for those younger than 25. The rates only included people who were hospitalized. The fatality rate would be lower if it included people who were not admitted to the hospital. By the time SARS was under control, there were 5,328 cases in China with 349 deaths, 1,755 cases in Hong Kong with 299 deaths, 346 cases in Taiwan with 37 deaths, 251 cases in Canada with 44 deaths, 238 cases in Singapore with 33 deaths, 63 cases in Vietnam with 5 deaths, 27 cases in the U.S. with 0 deaths, 14 cases in the Philippines with 2 deaths, 9 cases in Mongolia with 0 deaths, 4 cases in South Korea with 0 deaths, and one case with 0 deaths in the Republic of Ireland, Romania, Russian Federation, Spain, and Switzerland, according to WHO.

SARS had an incubation period of two to seven days with a maximum of 10 days, UMN reported.

Three teams are working on vaccines for the Wuhan coronavirus, but a vaccine is not yet available, CNBC reported.