Health Experts Simulated Coronavirus Pandemic Exercise, Just Before China Outbreak
Top US scientists simulated a fictional coronavirus pandemic just three months ago
Top US health experts hosted a tabletop exercise that simulated a fictional coronavirus pandemic - to see how authorities could coordinate a response to such an event - just three months before the current Chinese virus outbreak.
Leading scientists at the prestigious Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security conducted the simulation to highlight how governments and industry would respond in the case of a very severe pandemic.
As part of a study last October, researchers modeled a hypothetical pandemic on a computer.
So far the highly contagious and deadly disease currently spreading through China has killed 41 people, with more than 1,200 confirmed cases of infection.
Experts predict the actual number of those who have contracted the virus is more likely to run into the thousands, however.
The Center for Health Security and its partners - the World Economic Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - have made it clear that the inputs for modeling the potential impact of the fictional virus were not similar to the current coronavirus known only as nCoV2019.
Dr. Eric Toner, a senior researcher at Johns Hopkins, said he wasn't shocked when news of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan in late December.
"I have thought for a long time that the most likely virus that might cause a new pandemic would be a coronavirus," he told Business Insider.
"We don't yet know how contagious it is.
"We know that it is being spread person to person, but we don't know to what extent.
"An initial first impression is that this is significantly milder than SARS. So that's reassuring.
"On the other hand, it may be more transmissible than SARS, at least in the community setting."
Coronaviruses are infections of the respiratory tract that can lead to illnesses like pneumonia or the common cold.
One was also responsible for the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in China, which affected 8,000 people and killed 774 in the early 2000s.
Dr. Toner's computer simulation suggested that after six months, nearly every country in the world would have cases of coronavirus.
The outbreak in Wuhan isn't considered a pandemic, but the virus has been reported in 11 different nations.
The US, UK, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, and Nepal have all confirmed cases.
Dr. Toner's simulation imagined a fictional virus called CAPS - a pandemic that originated in Brazil's pig farms in the hypothetical scenario.
The virus in Toner's simulation would be resistant to any modern vaccine.
It would be deadlier than SARS, but about as easy to catch as the flu.
His computer-modeled outbreak started small, with farmers coming down with fevers or pneumonia-like symptoms.
It then spread to crowded and poverty-riddled communities in South America.
Flights were grounded and travel bookings were slashed in half.
After six months, the virus had spread around the globe.