70% of world's population likely to contract coronavirus in 2020: US epidemiologist

Harvard professor says coronavirus uncontainable but most patients will only display mild symptoms

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Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch. (Harvard Magazine photo)

Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch. (Harvard Magazine photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — While the world continues to battle the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19), US epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch has shared his thoughts on the current outbreak, predicting that the disease will ultimately be uncontainable and infect 40 to 70 percent of the global population.

During an interview with American magazine The Atlantic, Lipsitch emphasized that the first step in responding to any outbreak is “containment,” but the fact that COVID-19 has spread to more than 40 countries despite China’s preventive measures proves that complete control over the virus spread is highly improbable. He added that many coronavirus patients will not show signs of fever or discomfort after contracting the virus, which makes it even more difficult to trace.

The Harvard epidemiology professor said he believes approximately 40 to 70 percent of people around the world will be infected with the coronavirus within the upcoming year, but most cases will not be life-threatening. "It's likely that many will have mild disease, or may be asymptomatic," he explained.

Lipsitch pointed out that infectious diseases, such as SARS, MERS, and the avian flu, were eventually contained because they had higher fatality rates. He said the level of COVID-19's fatality rate is similar to that of the seasonal flu and only patients older or with chronic diseases will suffer severely.

According to The Atlantic, Lipsitch is not the only scientist who believes the global spread of the COVID-19 is inevitable. Dr. James Hamblin also noted that international epidemiologists have slowly reached a consensus that the Wuhan coronavirus is a new "endemic" disease and that the "cold and flu season" might become the "cold and flu and COVID-19 season."