THE first case of the Wuhan virus was detected on Dec 12. Until Jan, 16, only 45 cases, with two deaths, all in Wuhan, had been reported, and no health care workers were said to have been infected.

The virus was mild, we were told then, with no evidence of human-to-human transmission; all confirmed cases seemed to originate from a food market where live animals are sold.

On Jan 11, local authorities even suggested that the outbreak was over because they hadn't registered any new case since Jan 3.

By Friday, though 26 deaths and more than 800 cases had been confirmed. Cases of ill travelers from Wuhan have been reported in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and the United States.

Disease modeling experts at the Imperial College, in London have estimated that as many as 4,000 to 9,700 people could be infected just in Wuhan, a city of more than 11 million people.

According to Guan Yi, a virologist based in Hong Kong, the trajectory of the Wuhan virus parallels the early spread of SARS, the virus that spread to 29 countries, sickened thousands and killed 774 people in 2002 and 2003. Pehaps just as worrisome :

The governments response today seems remarkably similar to its response back then.

The Chinese government's initial response to SARS was, at least at the national level, a combination of inaction, denial and deception. The earliest case of SARS occurred in mid-November 2002; it's clear that by late January of 2003 the Health Ministry was aware of a dangerous new type of pneumonia in Guangdong Province.

Yet the government did not issue a nationwide bulletin to hospitals with instructions for preventing the spread of disease until April 3. And it was not until mid-April that it formally listed SARS as a disease to be closely monitored, with daily reports
But this virus is anything but patriotic. It is exploding in China and spreading to other countries much as SARS did in 2003.

And to the author's surprise ''From 2003 to 2020,'' according to one article shared by a government adviser on a WeChat group. Beijing's conduct has not changed at all.

The World Students Society thanks author Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations and a professor at Seton Hall University's School of Diplomacy and International Relations.


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