JOURNAL ARTICLE

The SARS, MERS and novel coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemics, the newest and biggest global health threats: what lessons have we learned?

Noah C Peeri, Nistha Shrestha, Md Siddikur Rahman, Rafdzah Zaki, Zhengqi Tan, Saana Bibi, Mahdi Baghbanzadeh, Nasrin Aghamohammadi, Wenyi Zhang, Ubydul Haque
International Journal of Epidemiology 2020 February 22
32086938

OBJECTIVES: To provide an overview of the three major deadly coronaviruses and identify areas for improvement of future preparedness plans, as well as provide a critical assessment of the risk factors and actionable items for stopping their spread, utilizing lessons learned from the first two deadly coronavirus outbreaks, as well as initial reports from the current novel coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic in Wuhan, China.

METHODS: Utilizing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, USA) website, and a comprehensive review of PubMed literature, we obtained information regarding clinical signs and symptoms, treatment and diagnosis, transmission methods, protection methods and risk factors for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and COVID-19. Comparisons between the viruses were made.

RESULTS: Inadequate risk assessment regarding the urgency of the situation, and limited reporting on the virus within China has, in part, led to the rapid spread of COVID-19 throughout mainland China and into proximal and distant countries. Compared with SARS and MERS, COVID-19 has spread more rapidly, due in part to increased globalization and the focus of the epidemic. Wuhan, China is a large hub connecting the North, South, East and West of China via railways and a major international airport. The availability of connecting flights, the timing of the outbreak during the Chinese (Lunar) New Year, and the massive rail transit hub located in Wuhan has enabled the virus to perforate throughout China, and eventually, globally.

CONCLUSIONS: We conclude that we did not learn from the two prior epidemics of coronavirus and were ill-prepared to deal with the challenges the COVID-19 epidemic has posed. Future research should attempt to address the uses and implications of internet of things (IoT) technologies for mapping the spread of infection.

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