As we now fight against the novel coronavirus, memories of the worrying and frightening scenes from 17 years ago resurfaced: everyone wore surgical masks, schools were closed, and businesses were shut down. With the novel coronavirus claiming the first life in Hong Kong recently, Hong Kongers are once again taking the same level of precautions as we did for SARS. But what exactly is the novel coronavirus?
SARS vs Novel Coronavirus
The SARS virus and the Novel Coronavirus carry many similarities, but they do differ in infectivity and severity:
Novel Coronavirus: Also coronavirus but is not a mutation from SARS
Mode of transmission
SARS: Transmission via droplets, indirect contact and possibly through faeces
Novel Coronavirus: Transmission via droplets, indirect contact and possibly through faeces
SARS: 8,000 cases worldwide
Novel Coronavirus: More than 43,000 cases as of 11 Feb
Symptoms at onset
SARS: fever, shortness of breath, cough, muscle ache and sore throat
Novel Coronavirus: fever, shortness of breath, cough, muscle ache and sore throat.
SARS: Most cases are severe. Can lead to severe damages of the lungs known as Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). Most patients with ARDS require treatment in intensive care unit, and lead to death from complications and multi-organ failure.
Novel Coronavirus: Including mild to severe cases. Some carriers have no symptoms at all. Can also lead to ARDS. Most patients with ARDS require treatment in intensive care unit, and may lead to death from complications and multi-organs failure.
Novel Coronavirus: 2%, but needs time to verify as many patients are still being treated
SARS: Antiviral treatment and organ support therapy
Novel Coronavirus: Antiviral treatment and organ support therapy
In summary, the two viruses are both lethal but if one got infected with the novel coronavirus, it’s possible that the symptoms would be milder and perhaps less fatal, according to data at this moment.
But of course, prevention is the best cure. We now know the novel coronavirus transmits in the same way as SARS, it is of paramount that we exercise the same precautions and determination: wear face masks, wash hands frequently and be vigilant to observe personal hygiene.
Dr Alexander Chiu, Medical Director, Health and Employee Benefits, AXA Hong Kong and Macau