Wuhan coronavirus cases surpass total SARS pandemic cases

  • A coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, has killed at least 170 people and infected more than 8,100 since December.
  • The total number of coronavirus cases worldwide has surpassed that of the entire SARS pandemic.
  • Between November 2002 and July 2003, SARS killed 774 people and infected 8,096.
  • Coronaviruses are zoonotic diseases, meaning they pass from animals to humansBoth this virus and SARS likely originated in bats then jumped to people in China.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Since December, the Wuhan coronavirus has killed at least 170 people and infected more than 8,100 across 20 countries. The virus likely emerged at a wet market in Wuhan, China, where it jumped from animals to people, just like the coronavirus responsible for the SARS outbreak did nearly two decades ago.

The latest spike in confirmed coronavirus cases (from about 7,000 to 8,149 in the past 24 hours) pushes the total number of people infected above the final case count from the eight-month SARS pandemic 17 years ago.

Between November 2002 and July 2003, SARS (which stands for severe acute respiratory syndrome) killed 774 people and infected 8,096 across 29 countries. Experts called SARS “the first pandemic of the 21st century.”

A nurse outside a SARS clinic in suburban Toronto on April 24, 2003.

Mike Cassese/Reuters

The coronavirus outbreak isn’t yet considered a pandemic despite its rapid spread. But on Thursday, the World Health Organization declared it a global public-health emergency.

Comparing the coronavirus outbreak with other viruses

Here’s how the Wuhan outbreak compares with SARS and other major outbreaks in the past 50 years.


According to experts, the new coronavirus likely originated in bats. More than 75% of emerging diseases originate in animals; these are called zoonotic diseases, meaning they can jump from animals to people. 

“Infectious diseases will continue to emerge and reemerge. I think it’s part of the world we live in now,” Eric Toner, a senior scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, previously told Business Insider.

Health officials have observed person-to-person transmission of the novel coronavirus in China, Japan, and recently the US. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the immediate health risk to Americans is still considered low.

Correction: A previous version of the chart in this article incorrectly reported the case-fatality rate of H1N1. It is 0.02%.

Aria Bendix contributed reporting to this story.

Read more about the Wuhan coronavirus:

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