PUBLISHED: 18:57, Mon, Mar 2, 2020 | UPDATED: 19:11, Mon, Mar 2, 2020
The coronavirus has infected more than 89,000 people since December last year with new outbreaks appearing in South Korea, Italy and Iran. The viral epidemic, which has killed at least 3,048, is being closely monitored by the World Health Organization (WHO).
But there is a distinct possibility thousands of coronavirus infections go unnoticed or unreported.
According to Professor Tanja Stadler from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich), the data collected around the epidemic’s start has been unreliable at best.
The expert in computational biology used a statistical model to study the spread of COVID-19 from China’s Wuhan City starting in November 2019.
She said: “Using statistical methods, we can calculate how many people were infected at any point in time in the past.”
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Coronavirus: Thousands of infections could be unreported an expert has warned (Image: REUTERS/AFP/GETTY)
Coronavirus map: Countries with confirmed COVID-19 infections (Image: EXPRESS)
Based on her analysis, Professor Stadler said the virus likely infected between 4,000 and 19,000 people on January 23, when Wuhan was quarantined from the rest of China.
At the time, however, the official count of confirmed infections only stood at 581.
As a result, the epidemiologist said only one in 33 infections appeared in official reports, at the most extreme end of the spectrum.
A more positive estimate suggests only one in seven cases were officially reported.
Using genetic data,