Officially, 45 people have been infected with the mysterious virus currently affecting China. Among them, three were diagnosed abroad. A finding that suggests that the total number of people affected could be greatly underestimated.
Since November 12, the city of Wuhan, China, has been affected by a mysterious epidemic of viral pneumonia. The first people infected with the virus worked at the South China Seafood City , a market specializing in the sale of seafood and fish. Genetic analyzes also allowed the authorities to understand that we were dealing with a new type of coronavirus 80% similar to SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) found in some bats.
To date, 45 people have reportedly been affected by the virus, which claimed its first victim on January 9. Of this sample, two cases were reported in Thailand, and a third in Japan.
But these figures may have been grossly underestimated, according to a research center at Imperial College London.
Statistically, according to the researchers, if three cases have indeed been reported outside China's borders, it means that the number of people infected in Wuhan is actually much higher. Based on data from international flights departing from the city's airport, they now estimate that more than 1,700 people may have been affected by the virus in China.
"For Wuhan to have exported three cases to other countries, there must be many more cases than reported , summarizes Professor Neil Ferguson, one of the authors of the study, to the BBC. I am much more concerned than I was a week ago “.
This researcher isn't the only one to worry. Many countries have since implemented additional security measures at airports . For example, stricter border health checks have been implemented in Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Japan, for all flights from Wuhan.
As of Friday (yesterday), stricter checks are also in place on flights from Wuhan at San Francisco, JFK (New York) and Los Angeles airports.
On the spot, the approach of the Lunar New Year festivities (January 25), in China, are further worrying the health authorities.
On this occasion, hundreds of millions of people will take public transport to spend the holidays with their families. Many also go on vacation to Southeast Asia. The chances of the virus spreading will be much greater during this period.
If at the moment no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission has been established, the authorities also want to be very cautious. The two people affected in Thailand had not attended the offending market.