Better treatment [in Scottish hospitals] is likely to be the answer. This extract from an interview with WHO’s Bruce Aylward suggests that may well be the reason.
“In Guangdong province, for example, there were 320,000 tests done in people coming to fever clinics, outpatient clinics. And at the peak of the outbreak, 0.47 percent of those tests were positive. People keep saying [the cases are the] tip of the iceberg. But we couldn’t find that. We found there’s a lot of people who are cases, a lot of close contacts — but not a lot of asymptomatic circulation of this virus in the bigger population. And that’s different from flu. In flu, you’ll find this virus right through the child population, right through blood samples of 20 to 40 percent of the population.
If you didn’t find the “iceberg” of mild cases in China, what does it say about how deadly the virus is — the case fatality rate?
It says you’re probably not way off. The average case fatality rate is 3.8 percent in China, but a lot of that is driven by the early epidemic in Wuhan where numbers were higher. If you look outside of Hubei province [where Wuhan is], the case fatality rate is just under 1 percent now. I would not quote that as the number. That’s the mortality in China — and they find cases fast, get them isolated, in treatment, and supported early. Second thing they do is ventilate dozens in the average hospital; they use extracorporeal membrane oxygenation [removing blood from a person’s body and oxygenating their red blood cells] when ventilation doesn’t work. This is sophisticated health care. They have a survival rate for this disease I would not extrapolate to the rest of the world. What you’ve seen in Italy and Iran is that a lot of people are dying.
This suggests the Chinese are really good at keeping people alive with this disease, and just because it’s 1 percent in the general population outside of Wuhan doesn’t mean it [will be the same in other countries].
That’s really concerning for the rest of the world. Are you suggesting this is the big one — the once-a-century pandemic people have been bracing for?
It’s not. It can be the big one but like, for flu — whether you have a pandemic with flu, it’s a function of the virus. That’s a virus with a very, very high infectivity rate, a very, very high transmissibility rate. The time [the virus] takes to go from [one person to the next] can be as short as 1.5 days. For Covid-19, it’s longer — four to five days. Look around the world. We’re seeing a whole bunch of outbreaks controlled with the right responses, and even turned around if they get to a bad state.”