How German Scientists Predicted a Pandemic like Coronavirus

On 26 November 2012, the experts at the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance prepared a document where they show potential threatening scenarios that could affect Germany.

These scenarios involved floods and problems with nuclear reactors. But a prediction which unfortunately was correct was about the pandemic.

They created a detailed scenario of how it would start; how many people it would affect; the mortality rate; and how the government should respond to this situation.

Here’s a translation of that document…

Scenario

A pandemic is a worldwide spread of disease.

Extraordinary epidemic events can have natural causes, e.g.:

– Recurrence of known pathogens (measles, typhoid)

– imported cases of diseases with rare highly contagious and/or highly pathogenic

– Pathogens (Ebola, Lassa fever)

– Pandemics with variations of known pathogens (influenza pandemic)

– The occurrence of novel pathogens (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, SARS)

The present scenario describes an exceptional epidemic event that occurred at the distribution of a novel pathogen.

The scenario is based on the hypothetical pathogen “mode SARS” which is very closely related to the SARS virus.

The past has shown that pathogens with novel properties that can cause a serious epidemic event can occur suddenly. (E.g. SARS coronavirus [CoV], H5N1 influenza virus, Chikungunya virus, HIV).

A current example of a newly emerging pathogen is a coronavirus (‘novel coronavirus’), which is not closely related to SARS-CoV.

This virus has been detected in six patients since the summer of 2012, two of whom have died.

A patient was treated in Germany and could be discharged as cured.

The difference to SARS-CoV, however, this virus does not appear to be present or very poorly transferable from person to person, so that the current risk assessment assumes that the risk of disease transmission from person to person is low. (Booth November 26, 2012).

Description of the event

The hypothetical mode SARS virus is identical to the natural SARS CoV. 

The incubation period, i.e. the time from the transmission of the virus to a person, to the first symptoms of the disease, is usually three to five days but can range from two to 14 days.

Almost all infected people fall ill too.

The symptoms are fever and dry cough, most patients have difficulty breathing, visible changes in the lungs in x-rays, chills, nausea, and muscle aches. Also, diarrhea, headache, exanthema (rash) may occur, dizziness, cramps, and loss of appetite.

The mortality rate is high with 10% of the patients, but to different degrees in different age groups.

Children and young people generally have a milder course of disease with a lethality rate of around 1%, while the lethality rate for people over 65 is 50%.

The duration of the disease also differs in dependence on the age of the patients; younger patients often have the infection after a week, while older, more severely ill patients spend about three weeks in the hospital, even treatment needs of up to 60 days were considered for described the SARS-CoV.

When modeling the numbers of sick people and affected in this scenario, we assume that all age groups are equally affected.

We also didn’t take into account other parameters that can modify the course of the disease, such as human contact and mobility in metropolitan areas.

Transmission occurs mainly via droplet infection, but since the virus is transmitted on inanimate surfaces can remain infectious for several days, smear infections are also possible.

When the first symptoms appear, the infected persons are contagious.

This is the only difference in transferability between hypothetical mode SARS and SARS-CoV – the naturally occurring pathogen can only be transmitted from person to person if a person already shows clear symptoms of illness.

The treatment is not available so that only symptomatic treatment is possible. A vaccine isn’t also available for the first three years.

Besides compliance with hygiene measures can, therefore, be protective measures in the sense of separation of sick persons or suspected infectious agents, as well as the use of protective equipment such as protective masks, goggles, and gloves.

However, isolation and quarantine are only of limited effectiveness, because even there is very pronounced infectivity at the onset of symptoms (Fraser et al., 2004)

The infectious disease spreads sporadically, and in clusters.

Transmission takes place in particular through household contacts and in the hospital environment, but also in public means of transport, at work and in leisure time.

Triggering Events

The pathogen originates from Southeast Asia, where the pathogen found in wild animals, is transmitted via markets to humans.

Since the animals themselves do not fall ill, it was not recognizable that there was a risk of infection…. set in motion by this zoonotic transmission.

Domestic pets and farm animals cannot be infected by Modi-SARS and therefore do not carry contributes to the spread or maintenance of the chain of infection.

Two first cases in Germany it’s about the people who come from the same Southeast Asia country.

One of them is flying to Germany to visit a stand at a trade fair in a large city in northern Germany.

The other person flies back to Germany one day later after a semester abroad in China, and she continued her studies in a university town in southern Germany.

In Germany, these two people are two of the index patients through whom infection is more widespread.

They are of particular interest because both persons are infected with coming into contact with an extraordinary number of people and thus strongly contribute to the initial spread.

There are further cases that are imported into Germany so that one can expect ten infected persons to which the first wave of infection is attributable.

Duration

New cases can be expected until a vaccine is available.

The scenario is based on a total period of three years with the assumption that after this time a vaccine will be developed, released, and available in sufficient quantity is available.

The pathogen changes over the course of three years through mutations in such a way, that even people who have already experienced an infection are again susceptible to infection will be. This results in three waves of disease of varying intensity.

The extent of damage is determined as a sum for the entire period of three years.

How does the event proceed?

Starting with the first cases in northern and southern Germany, the pandemic is spread in waves with rising numbers.

In principle, especially in large towns due to the high population density and movement patterns (high mobility, use of means of mass transport, etc.) correspondingly higher numbers of illnesses are expected.

It is assumed that each infected person infects an average of three persons and that each it takes three days before the next transmission. 

So-called “Super Spreaders” are not taken into account in this context.

The experts predicted that 26 million people would be infected in Germany and that the mortality rate would be at 10 %.