In the early 2000s, SARS was something that looked set to turn the world upside down. In the end, while there were many fatalities, it turned out to be quite a minor outbreak compared to Covid-19.
When we define “mild” we can refer to the numbers that SARS presented to us. There were just over 8,000 cases and 774 deaths. To put things into perspective, some individual countries are reporting DAILY cases and deaths of the above numbers for Covid-19.
SARS may have grabbed the attention of the world, but a lot of us didn’t see much disruption to day-to-day lives. We didn’t see hospitals stocking up on medical towels and on a larger scale, ventilators. We didn’t see worldwide lockdowns. We didn’t see economies set to be blown apart. Everything seemed somewhat mild to what we have at the moment.
While the two diseases are worlds apart in terms of the number of cases, some sources almost view SARS as something that helped China towards a brighter future. It helped them progress to a better public health system, healthier lifestyles and even a more open government. The initial outbreak of SARS was met with the same fear that most of us are seeing today.
So, what’s the difference?
As we all know, both of these diseases are respiratory conditions but firstly, let’s talk about a non-medical implication of the two. Covid-19 started in Wuhan and this is a major issue; this is the largest city in China whilst also being a major hub for commerce. It means that its population is dense and attempting to contain a disease in this area is, and was, nigh-on impossible. When this is coupled with the Spring Festival, which results in a lot of people traveling out of their cities, it meant that the spread was inevitable.
The second difference is the infectious period. The big “advantage” with SARS was that it was most contagious when symptoms were obvious. This meant that once a person was ill, they were most likely isolated, and unable to pass the symptoms on. Furthermore, there were barely any asymptomatic patients for SARS.
As we all know, this is a stark difference to Covid-19. There are a lot of cases of people being diagnosed without symptoms and worst of all, the disease can be passed on at any point. It means that there is little or no time for people to isolate before they become a carrier.
Of course, time will tell how the world will continue to react with Covid-19 and attempt to beat it. Scientists are working overtime to collect data on coronaviruses and in the long-term at least, this might mean that we avoid such pandemics taking over our daily lives.
However, for now, it’s growing at a scale that nobody anticipated. It is quickly working its way up the rankings for some of the worst diseases this world has ever faced. It’s already blown SARS out of the water in terms of the numbers, but time will tell if the world learns any lessons like China did with SARS.