The last time a coronavirus reached near-pandemic status—you may remember it as SARS—Hong Kong was hit with 1755 cases and 299 deaths, and severe damage to its economy. Now there’s a new coronavirus on the loose, and though there is no sign yet that it’s the next SARS, Hong Kong and world health authorities aren’t taking any chances.
Hong Kong officials conducted simulations this week to rehearse a possible outbreak, including quarantines and treatment protocols. The New York Times reports the government “has already begun alerting and training employees at hospitals, clinics and the airport to identify possible cases.”
It’s definitely a good idea to be cautious, because there are some indicators this an especially nasty bug, which has killed 11 of the 17 people known to have contracted it—a much higher death than SARs. Unlike SARS, which affected the respiratory system, this new virus dubbed “novel coronavirus” (NCoV) attacks multiple organs. The most likely source of the disease is bats, although monkeys, pigs, civet cats and even rabbits could also harbor it, the South China Morning Post reported.