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How Does COVID-19 Compare To Other Outbreaks?

Apr 23, 2020 4:45:00 PM     posted in Infection Prevention

If it hasn’t already, chances are that COVID-19 may spread to your community. As of April 21, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention  (CDC) reports 802,583 cases of infection and 44,575 deaths in 50 states, and 5 jurisdictions. How could you possibly prepare IP policies to support healthcare staff who may soon be treating infected patients for an outbreak that WHO declared a pandemic on March 11? With the situation changing fast, staying abreast of the latest updates is imperative to formulating an appropriate response. 

To better identify its potential impact on communities and healthcare professionals, it helps to compare COVID-19 to previous epidemics. Here’s a quick summary of the similarities and differences between COVID-19, Ebola, SARS and MERS:

Ebola Virus Disease (Ebola)
  • Distribution. According to WHO, the 2014-2016 outbreak was confined to West Africa.
  • Infections. A total of 28,616 cases of Ebola were reported during the outbreak, according to WHO data. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is currently grappling with an outbreak with 3,453 cases as of March 24, but no new cases have been reported there since February 17, according to this WHO update
  • Fatalities. The current outbreak in the DRC has, according to WHO, claimed the lives of 2,264 people to date. The 2014–2016 outbreak across West Africa claimed the lives of 11,310 people before being declared over by WHO.
  • Response. Currently, according to WHO, the response to Ebola Virus Disease focuses on three objectives: interrupting all remaining chains of Ebola transmission; responding to consequences of residual risk; and working on health systems recovery. 


Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV)

  • Distribution. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the 2003 SARS outbreak spread to more than two-dozen countries in North & South America, Europe and Asia. 
  • Infections. They also report that a total of 8,098 people contracted SARS before the outbreak was successfully contained. Of these, only 8 cases were confirmed in the USA.
  • Fatalities. The CDC source above reports that SARS claimed the lives of 774 people worldwide.
  • Response. The CDC reports that it worked closely with WHO and other partners at the time to address the outbreak. Part of their response included providing assistance to state and local health departments, initiating a system of public health alerts and activating an Emergency Operations Center to provide 24/7 coordination and response.


Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV)
  • Distribution. According to WHO, 27 countries reported cases of MERS-CoV, after it was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012.
  • Infections. Since September 2012, WHO has reportedly been notified of 2,494 confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infections.
  • Fatalities. According to the WHO source cited above, 858 MERS-CoV associated deaths have occurred since the outbreak began. According to the WHO MERS fact sheet, this translates to a fatality rate of approximately 35%.  
  • Response. Together with affected countries and international partners, WHO coordinated a global health response to the MERS-CoV outbreak. Measures included conducting risk assessments and joint investigations with national authorities, and developing guidance and training for health authorities. 
  • Distribution. Google has published an interactive map based on WHO situation reports. It’s constantly updated and the picture it paints is pretty grim: COVID-19 is found worldwide — in over 200 countries, areas or territories.
  • Infections. As of April 22, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported 2,471,136 cases of COVID-19 globally. This is up from the approximately 80,000 we reported in our last blog post on the topic on February 27!
  • Fatalities. As of April 22, according to the WHO source above, COVID-19 has claimed 169,006 lives worldwide.
  • Response. WHO declared the COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, and governments around the world have countered the spread with a series of measures that include mass quarantine. WHO has also activated an R&D blueprint to accelerate diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics for this novel coronavirus.  

In these uncertain times, supplying your team with the best PPE goes hand-in-hand with arming yourself with the latest news. In a WHO publication on the rational use of PPE for COVID-19, healthcare workers involved in the direct care of patients are recommended to use PPE such as gloves, gowns and medical masks and eye protection alongside practices such as hand hygiene.

At Ventyv®, we’ve devoted our time to curtailing infection spread by creating a range of single-use gloves. Contact us for your free sample of our new exam gloves that provide the strength and barrier protection needed to Outsmart Infection®, together. Or, subscribe to our blog and stay informed with the latest updates and tips on infection prevention.

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