The death toll from the coronavirus epidemic rose to 490 in China on Wednesday, when two US airlines suspended flights to Hong Kong after the first coronavirus fatality was recorded, and a cruise ship was quarantined in Japan after 10 passengers tested positive for the virus.
Most victims died at an age over 60
The profile of the first victim to fall prey to the Wuhan virus is representative of many of the dead so far: he was a man aged over 60, with pre-existing health problems.
Since the initial Beijing announcement in December when the coronavirus outbreak was declared, more than 24,300 have been infected and 490 have died in mainland China.
According to figures released by China’s National Health Commission, 80 per cent of victims were above the age of 60, while 75 per cent suffered from other health problems.
Even so, among the disease’s confirmed cases, the youngest patient is a 1-month-old infant and the oldest is 90 years old.
The youngest victim of the virus was a 36-year-old Wuhan resident. He was admitted to hospital on January 9 and died of heart failure two weeks later, according to Hubei province health authorities. It has not been clarified if he had pre-existing health problems.
Currently, coronavirus has recorded a 2.1 per cent mortality rate, the Commission said, well below 9.6 per cent which was recorded during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2002-2003 which had killed 800 people worldwide.
Additional figures show that 97 per cent of the victims of the novel coronavirus are residents of China’s Hubei province, where a wildlife market in Wuhan has been identified as the epidemic’s epicentre.
The mortality rate outside Hubei is only 0.16 per cent, according to Chinese authorities.
So far, countries outside China have seen two coronavirus deaths, as a 39-year-old man from Wuhan has died in Hong Kong, while another Wuhan resident died in the Philippines.
Many suffered from pre-existing health problems
A high proportion of victims were already suffering from health problems, mainly diabetes and high blood pressure, before being infected with the virus.
An 86-year-old man, who was admitted to hospital on January 9, had undergone major bowel cancer surgery four years prior, and also suffered from high blood pressure and diabetes.
An 80-year-old woman victim suffered from Parkinson's disease as well as high blood pressure and diabetes for 20 years.
Not all victims showed fever symptoms
In China, temperature controls have been installed in all airports, buses and railway stations.
However, according to the National Health Commission, not all victims showed symptoms of fever prior to their hospitalisation.
A 66-year-old man named Luo had developed a ‘dry cough’ on December 22, before developing respiratory problems a week later. In mid-January he was placed on life support.
"Of great concern is the wide range of the severity of the symptoms caused by this virus," explains Jeremy Farar, director of the British Wellcome Trust.
"It is clear that some people have been infected and transmitted the virus while presenting very mild symptoms to no symptoms at all," explained Jeremy Farrar, director of the British Welcome Trust.