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Philanthropist Bill Gates on Friday warned that the coronavirus is beginning to behave like a 'once-in-a-century' pathogen with the potential to kill more people than the 66,000 Americans who died in the 1957 influenza pandemic.
'The data so far suggest that the virus has a case fatality risk around 1 per cent,' Gates wrote.
'This rate would make it many times more severe than typical seasonal influenza, putting it somewhere between the 1957 influenza pandemic (0.6 per cent) and the 1918 influenza pandemic (2 per cent).'
The virus that caused the 1957 Asian flu pandemic was quickly identified, and vaccines were available by August 1957.
The elderly had the highest rates of death.
The Asian flu killed 2 million people globally, according to the World Health Organization.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates (seen above in Shanghai in 2018) says that the coronavirus has started to behave like a 'once-in-a-century' pathogen
The 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic is the benchmark by which all modern pandemics are measured.
Some 20 to 40 per cent of the worldwide population became ill and more than 50 million people died.
Between September 1918 and April 1919, it killed more than 600,000 people in the United States alone.
In a normal flu season, about 36,000 people die in the United States, and 250,000 to 500,000 globally.
So far, more than 83,000 people in at least 53 countries have been infected with coronavirus.
Of those who have been infected, a reported 2,800 have died - most of them in China.
In recent days, the number of new infections outside of China has outpaced those within the country. The rapid spread has sent global financial markets spiraling.
Gates urged wealthy nations to help low and middle-income countries strengthen their health systems in hopes of slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
'By helping countries in Africa and South Asia get ready now, we can save lives and also slow the global circulation of this virus,' Gates, the former chairman and chief executive of Microsoft Corp, wrote in an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The novel coronavirus that first emerged in China and has now spread to 46 countries is much harder to stop than similar viruses that caused the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Gates wrote.
'First, it can kill healthy adults in addition to elderly people with existing health problems,' he wrote.
'Second, Covid-19 is transmitted quite efficiently.
Coronavirus cases in the US have now risen to 63, including 42 passengers who were aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, three people repatriated from China and 16 on US soil
The virus that caused the 1957 Asian flu pandemic was quickly identified, and vaccines were available by August 1957. The elderly had the highest rates of death. The Asian flu killed 2 million people globally. The image above shows flu patients in Copenhagen in 1957
'The average infected person spreads the disease to two or three others - an exponential rate of increase.'
What makes the spread of the disease even more difficult to contain is the fact that carriers of the virus may not show any symptoms, according to Gates.
'That means Covid-19 will be much harder to contain than the Middle East respiratory syndrome or severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which were spread much less efficiently and only by symptomatic people.
'In fact, Covid-19 has already caused 10 times as many cases as SARS in a quarter of the time.'
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has already pledged $100million to fight the outbreak.
Gates also called for accelerated testing of vaccines. He noted that several promising candidates are already being prepared for clinical trials.
'If some of these vaccines prove safe and effective in animal models, they could be ready for larger-scale trials as early as June,' he wrote.
'Drug discovery can also be accelerated by drawing on libraries of compounds that have already been tested for safety and by applying new screening techniques, including machine learning, to identify antivirals that could be ready for large-scale clinical trials within weeks.'
Gates said that these steps can be effective to curb the current pandemic, but more needs to be done to prepare for the next crisis, including shoring up the health care systems of low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
'It’s essential to help LMICs strengthen their primary health care systems,' the Microsoft co-founder wrote.
'When you build a health clinic, you're also creating part of the infrastructure for fighting epidemics.
'Trained health care workers not only deliver vaccines; they can also monitor disease patterns, serving as part of the early warning systems that alert the world to potential outbreaks.'
Gates urged governments to invest in 'disease surveillance' including a global ‘case database’ that allows governments to quickly share information.
'In addition, we need to build a system that can develop safe, effective vaccines and antivirals, get them approved, and deliver billions of doses within a few months after the discovery of a fast-moving pathogen,' he wrote.
'That’s a tough challenge that presents technical, diplomatic, and budgetary obstacles, as well as demanding partnership between the public and private sectors.
'But all these obstacles can be overcome.'
Gates wrote that governments and the private sector will need to come together and invest billions of dollars in order to prepare for the next pandemic.
'Billions of dollars for antipandemic efforts is a lot of money,' he wrote.
'But that’s the scale of investment required to solve the problem.
'And given the economic pain that an epidemic can impose - we’re already seeing how Covid-19 can disrupt supply chains and stock markets, not to mention people’s lives - it will be a bargain.'
Besides technical solutions, Gates called for better diplomatic efforts to drive international collaboration and data sharing, and increased government spending on drugs and vaccines that would give private companies incentives to take up such efforts.
Gates' plea was echoed on Friday by the World Health Organization, which said the risk was very high that the virus would spread and have a global impact.
The WHO implored governments to swing into action to contain the virus before it becomes widespread. Such actions could slow the virus, giving nations more time to prepare, officials said.
'Health systems around the world are just not ready,' Dr. Mike Ryan, head of the WHO emergencies program, told a news briefing.
The deadly flu virus attacked more than one-third of the world's population, and within months had killed more than 50 million people – three times as many as World War I – and did it more quickly than any other illness in recorded history.
Most influenza outbreaks disproportionately kill juvenile, elderly, or already weakened patients; in contrast the 1918 pandemic predominantly killed previously healthy young adults.
Red Cross volunteers fighting against the Spanish flu epidemic in United States in 1918
To maintain morale, wartime censors minimized early reports of illness and mortality in Germany, Britain, France, and the United States.
However, newspapers were free to report the epidemic's effects in Spain, creating a false impression of Spain as being especially hard hit - and leading to the pandemic's nickname Spanish flu.
The close quarters and massive troop movements of World War I hastened the pandemic and probably both increased transmission and augmented mutation, researchers believe.
The global mortality rate from the 1918/1919 pandemic is not known, but an estimated 10% to 20% of those who were infected died, with estimates of the total number of deaths ranging from 50-100 million people.
UP TO ONE HUNDRED HEALTH WORKERS WERE EXPOSED TO 'UNKNOWN ORIGIN' PATIENT WHO TOOK FOUR DAYS TO DIAGNOSE
The doctors and nurses are from the University of California Davis Medical Center, where the woman is being treated, and from NorthBay VacaValley Hospital.
''There were multiple health care personnel who were exposed to the individual,' Dr Bela Matyas, public health officer from Solano County, said at a news conference on Thursday.
'At both hospitals we are at present aggressively evaluating everyone who may have had contact with this patient. They are being identified and their risk for exposure is being assessed.'
Some are under isolation, some are under quarantine and others have been sent home to continuously monitor their status.
As for the patient, she is reportedly in very serious condition and is currently intubated, Rep John Garamendi (D-CA) told CNN.
Doctors requested a test for the virus, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ruled out the disease because the patient 'did not fit the...criteria' for testing. However, after the woman's medical team persisted, a test was finally performed on Sunday.
Health officials have been stumped by the woman's case because it's unclear how she contracted the disease. She didn't travel abroad, wasn't exposed to another infected patient , and she wasn't repatriated from China or the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.
Instead, 'this does appear to be a person who genuinely did acquire their illness in the community,' Dr Matyas sai.
According to the CDC, the patient, could be what is known as the first instance of 'community spread' of the virus, and more cases like hers will soon follow.
More than 83,000 people have been infected in more than 50 countries and more than 2,800 people - mostly in China - have died.
There are at now at least 62 coronavirus cases in the US including 15 from the nation, 44 evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship and three repatriated from China.
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As many as 100 healthcare workers may have been exposed to the California patient who went untested for coronavirus for four days. This image shows medical staff treating patients infected by the coronavirus in Wuhan, China, on Monday
The patient, who is a resident of Solano County, is reportedly in serious condition and currently intubated at UC Davis Medical Center
Some of the healthcare workers who were exposed are in isolation, others are in quarantine, and others are at home monitoring symptoms. Image courtesy of CBS This Morning
In addition to healthcare workers, there are fears the California patients may have come into contact with three students at three colleges in Northern California.
According to emails sent to students on both campuses, the students - who attend American River College and Cosumnes River College and Sacramento City College - were exposed last week, reported KTXL.
All three students have been told to self-quarantine for two weeks and to contact health officials if they experience symptoms such as a cough or fever.
The California woman appears to have the first case of coronavirus.
Los Rios Community College District, where the schools are located, say that neither classes nor school operations will be canceled.
The Sacramento County Public Health Department does not believe that either campus is at risk for exposure, according to KTXL.
In addition, three students at UC Davis are being isolated and one is undergoing CDC testing for coronavirus.
University officials say the student undergoing testing has moved off campus while the other two, who are asymptomatic are isolated on campus.
'In Yolo County, in the city of Davis, on the campus of UC Davis, there is no evidence of spread of coronavirus, there is no evidence of transmission of coronavirus,' Yolo County health officer Ron Chapman said.
Following the woman's case, the CDC says it is changing its criteria for testing patients and is sending new guidance to healthcare workers.
Prior to this patient, suspected cases were tested if they had traveled to China or were a close contact of someone who had been tested, according to CDC Director Dr Robert Redfield.
But the changed once the California woman tested positive.
'As soon as that case was recognized, we met and we revised our case definition for persons under investigation,' Redfield said.
'Today, that has been posted (to the CDC website) along with a new health advisory that the recommendation should be when a clinician or individual suspects coronavirus, then we should be able to get a test for coronavirus.'
SUPERMARKET SHELVES STRIPPED BARE AS AMERICANS STOCKPILE FOOD
Photos have emerged of bare supermarket and pharmacy shelves as American stockpile on medication and non-perishable items in fear of a coronavirus outbreak.
It comes three days after a top CDC official warned the it was not 'a question of it...but when' coronavirus will spread in the US.
One Twitter user shared photos of a Virginia supermarket with just a few remaining jumbo bags of pasta.
Another user in southern Calfornia, showed how shelves in one Walgreens had been depleted of cough medicines, cold and flu medications, vaporizers, masks and thermometers.
Supermarket shelves in Virginia are seen stripped bare of non-perishable items including jumbo bags of pasta
Photos in southern Calfornia showed how shelves in one Walgreens (left and right) had been depleted of cough medicines, cold and flu medications, vaporizers, masks and thermometers
A woman in Michigan shared pictures of her shelves piled with cans of soup, boxes of pasta, jars of peanut butter and more and referred to it as her 'grocery store basement'
Others on social media opted to shared photos of their stockpiles of food, including one Texas man who bought a year's supply.
'I just bought an additional year's worth of food last night. Everyone needs to have a stockpile of food,' tweeted Jesse Colombo, is a financial analyst in Dallas.
'Everyone needs to have a stockpile of food. I wouldn't even touch stocks (or even gold/silver) before having food in these times.'
Meanwhile, a woman in Michigan shared pictures of her shelves piled with cans of soup, boxes of pasta, jars of peanut butter and more.
She referred to it on Twitter as her 'grocery store basement.'
DOW JONES DROPS AGAIN AS CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK RAISES ALARM FOR POSSIBLE RECESSION
As the market opened on Friday, US stock indexes fell sharply, raising the alarm of a possible global recession.
The Dow Jones Industrial average lost 463 points at the opening bell on Friday, one day after the index's biggest one-day point drop in history.
If the Dow closes by more than 1,000 points at the end of the day, it would be the third time this week - and the second consecutive day - the index lost points in the four digit, an event that has only previously occurred twice in history.