By now who isn’t aware of the coronavirus outbreak first detected in China and now known as “COVID-19”?

The latest data (2/23/20) from Johns Hopkins University, which has been monitoring the situation closely, shows 78,990 confirmed cases worldwide, with 2,469 deaths.

An under-appreciated facet of this virus is the stunningly high rate of transmission, as illustrated by the nearly-vertical line on the chart below.  The extremely high velocity of transmission from person to person is perhaps the most frightening characteristic of this new killer.

An epidemic of SARS affected 26 countries and resulted in more than 8000 cases in 2003, also from China. Since then, a small number of cases have occurred as a result of laboratory accidents or, possibly, through animal-to-human transmission (Guangdong, China).

Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, or MERS‐CoV) that was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause diseases in humans, ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Chart from Reuters.