BEIJING: The new coronavirus might have infected at least 500,000 people in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicenter of the global outbreak, by the time it peaks in coming weeks.
The typically bustling megacity, where the so-called 2019-nCoV virus emerged late last year, has been in effective lockdown since January 23, restricting the movement of 11 million people. Recent trends in reported cases in Wuhan broadly support the preliminary mathematical modeling the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is using to predict the epidemic's transmission dynamics.
"Assuming current trends continue, we're still projecting a mid-to-late-February peak" of virus cases in Wuhan, Adam Kucharski, an associate professor of infectious disease epidemiology, said by email Sunday. "There's a lot of uncertainty, so I'm cautious about picking out a single value for the peak, but it's possible based on current data we might see a peak prevalence over 5%."
Researchers will gauge the proportion of people in the population who have been infected with 2019-nCoV after a test becomes available that enables them to conduct a so-called serosurvey to identify those whose blood contains antibodies produced in response to exposure to the virus.
Currently, the true number of people in Wuhan exposed to the virus "may be vastly underestimated," Manuel Battegay and colleagues at the University of Basel in Switzerland said in a study published Friday. "With a focus on thousands of serious cases, mild or asymptomatic courses that possibly account for the bulk of the 2019-nCoV infections might remain largely unrecognized, in particular during the influenza season."
There has been a "low, but steady incidence" of infections in places outside Hubei, Ryan said. It's unclear which of those provinces may control the disease or where it might escalate, he said.
"We hope that the same stabilization that appears to be occurring in Wuhan also occurs outside," Ryan said. "But, again it's very, very, very early to make any predictions about numbers."
"This is still a very intense disease outbreak in Wuhan and Hubei, and there are still great risks in practically all of the other provinces, so we will wait and see," he said.