• The coronavirus outbreak may seem reminiscent of past global epidemics like SARS, MERS, swine flu, and the Zika virus.
  • We looked at the data to see how those epidemics compare to the new coronavirus.
  • While some of those examples were deadlier than the coronavirus, they were far more limited in scope.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

The novel coronavirus outbreak has raised concerns across the globe, with more than 113,000 confirmed cases worldwide.

But to some, the coronavirus outbreak is reminiscent of epidemics that have caused a panic in recent memory, including SARS, MERS, the Zika virus, and swine flu.

So how exactly does the coronavirus stack up to those epidemics?

For one, we know that the coronavirus outbreak is not as deadly as the SARS epidemic of 2003, which killed around 10% of the 8,098 confirmed cases of the respiratory illness.

And it's far less deadly than Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, which has killed around 34% of the roughly 2,500 confirmed cases since it was first reported in 2012 in Saudi Arabia.

However, both of those illnesses were far more contained than COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. There have been more than 113,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and it has a mortality rate of 3.4%, according to the latest data.

"It has been more widespread than SARS and MERS. More people are getting infected" Aria Bendix, a senior science reporter for Business Insider said. "But less of those people who are getting infected are actually dying from it."

COVID-19, caused by the new coronavirus, has an estimated mortality rate of 3.4%.
Elizabeth McCauley and Liz Kraker/Business Insider Today
The coronavirus outbreak is more severe than the 2009 outbreak of H1N1, or swine flu. That illness infected between 700 million and 1.4 billion people worldwide but only had a mortality rate of 0.02%.

And in 2015 and 2016, there were more than 500,000 suspected cases of the Zika virus, leading to 18 deaths. Zika has also been linked to a spike in the birth defect microcephaly.

But it's important to note that Zika is transmitted primarily through mosquitoes, while the coronavirus is spread through respiratory fluids such as saliva or mucus.

"That's why it's so important with this coronavirus to actually cover your mouth when you cough or cover your face when you sneeze, so that you aren't spreading it to other people," Bendix said.

While we don't know how widespread the outbreak will become, cases of the virus have started tapering off in China, where the strain originated.

"Those cases are going down. Fewer people are being infected there. And if other countries like the US, South Korea, Japan, can enforce some of the same containment measures, we could see their outbreaks taper off as well."

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