WHO Expert Says New Data From China Increases Fears About High Coronavirus Fatality Rate


  • Bruce Aylward says that there is no evidence of mild cases of coronavirus being undetected.
  • Gary Kobinger Aylward counters Aylward, talking about countries away from China with confirmed Coronavirus cases.

Some people believed that that the lethality of China’s coronavirus outbreak was exaggerated because a lot of mild cases were being missed by media. However, according to World Health Organization (WHO) expert Bruce Aylward, they are wrong.

Leading an international mission to China to learn about the virus and China’s response, Aylward said that specialists did not see evidence about a large number of mild cases of the novel disease called Covid-19 are evading detection. Talking to media in Geneva, Aylward said:

“So I know everybody’s been out there saying, ‘Whoa, this thing is spreading everywhere and we just can’t see it, tip of the iceberg.’ But the data that we do have don’t support that.”

Knowing how many people had actually been infected was crucial to assessing how dangerous the virus was. During the early days of an explosive outbreak with a new pathogen, all one could see was people streaming into hospitals for care to see whether there were many more at home with a mild cold or manageable flu-like illness.

However, if the number of uncounted cases is not large, the severity seen in China is what the rest of the world can expect and need to brace itself for as the virus rapidly moving to new locations, especially if it is spreading to the degree seen in Hubei province, where the coronavirus outbreak began. Aylward said:

“What [the data] support is that sure, there may be a few asymptomatic cases … but there’s probably not huge transmission beyond what you can actually see clinically.”

The Counterview:

Gary Kobinger, director of the Infectious Disease Research Center at Laval University in Quebec, challenged Aylward‘s claim. Kobinger serves on a committee that advises the WHO’s health emergencies program. According to Kobinger, it would be mild or symptom-free cases were missed, as there were people who had never been tested for antibodies. He talked about outbreaks popping up in countries far from China that included Iran and Italy. This is because people with mild infections were not detected and traveled to other places. According to his words:

“There are mild cases that are undetected. This is why it’s spreading. Otherwise it would not be spreading because we would know where those cases are and they would be contained and that would be the end of it.”

According to Aylward, serology tests that can detect coronavirus, have started becoming available in China. Aylward said that across China, about 80% of cases were mild, about 14% were severe, and about 6% were critically ill.