The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said Monday that there is “essentially no end in sight” to the coronavirus pandemic as the number of new cases continues to rise across the U.S.
Fauci’s comments came during a keynote address for the American Association for Cancer Research’s virtual meeting on cancer and the novel coronavirus.
“Here we are in mid-July with close to 14 million cases globally and 580-plus-thousand deaths so far with essentially no end in sight,” Fauci said, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. He emphasized that COVID-19 and other coronavirus infections are “more than just the common cold,” MedPage Today reported, and compared the rise of COVID-19 with the trajectory of two other coronavirus-caused pandemics: The severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) pandemic of 2002 and the Middle East respiratory virus (MERS) pandemic of 2012.
Fauci said the first SARS case was detected in China in November 2002 after a bat infected a civet cat that went on to infect a human. The virus didn’t spread globally until after an infected person traveled to Hong Kong, where 19 people were infected. From November 2002 to July 2003, more than 8,000 people were infected with SARS and nearly 800 people died of the disease.
“The outbreak was controlled purely by public health measures, without any drugs and without any vaccines,” Fauci said, noting that the virus that causes SARS, SARS-CoV-1, was only moderately transmissible.
The MERS pandemic began in 2012 after the virus was transmitted from a bat to a camel and then to a human in Saudi Arabia. Since then, more than 2,500 people have been infected with the virus and 866 people have died. New cases of the virus are uncommon but still seen to this day, he said.
The novel coronavirus, which was first detected in December 2019, stands out as having an “extraordinarily wide spectrum of disease,” Fauci said. He said a majority of the people infected by COVID-19 see mild, moderate or no symptoms. Between 20% and 45% of all cases can be asymptomatic, he said.
As of Tuesday morning, more than 14.7 million COVID-19 cases have been reported worldwide and more than 610,000 people have died of the viral infection, according to numbers compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has been the hardest hit by the virus, with more than 3.8 million cases and nearly 141,000 deaths.
Cox Media Group