An infectious diseases expert at the forefront of the search for a coronavirus vaccine said on Friday that it was the most "frightening disease" he's ever encountered, and that "war is an appropriate analogy" for what the country is facing, as "50 - 70 percent of the global population" may become infected.
Dr. Richard Hatchett, who sat on the White House Homeland Security Council in 2005 - 2006 and was a principal author of the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Implementation Plan, and currently heads the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, told the UK's Channel 4:
"This is the most frightening disease I've ever encountered in my career, and that includes Ebola, it includes MERS, it includes SARS. And it's frightening because of the combination of infectiousness and a lethality that appears to be manyfold higher than flu."
He feels this way "because of the combination of infectiousness, and a lethality that appears to be many-fold higher than the flu."
When asked what concerns him the most about coronavirus, Hatchett said:
"I think the most concerning thing about this virus is the combination of infectiousness and the ability to cause severe disease or death. And we have not since 1918, the Spanish Flu, seen a virus that combined those two qualities in the same way. We have seen very lethal viruses. We have seen certainly, Ebola, or Nipah, or any of the other diseases that CEPI, the organisation that I run, works on - but those viruses had high mortality rates - I mean, Ebola's mortality rate in some settings is greater than 80%. But they don't have the infectiousness that this does. They don't have the potential to explode and spread globally."
Hatchett added "I don’t think it is a crazy analogy to compare this to World War II. The World Health Organisation is using those kinds of terms. They have seen what this virus is capable of doing."
He then said that coronavirus has the "potential to cause a global pandemic if we're not already there."
Turning to how the virus has spread around the world, Hatchett said "Singapore and Hong Kong did not shut themselves down but they have mounted very aggressive responses. Contact tracing is very important. The voluntary quarantine of contacts is very important. The isolation of cases is important. I think there may be a time to close schools."
Created three years ago to fight emerging diseases that threaten global health, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations is a partnership of governments, industry and charities.