The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief says that the U.N. health agency estimates the death rate of the new virus that emerged in China is about 2%.
Dr. Michael Ryan told reporters Wednesday that most people infected with the new virus seem to only experience mild illness. In comparison, the genetically related SARS virus killed about 10% of people who caught it.
Ryan says the few cases of human-to-human spread of the virus in Japan, Vietnam and Germany is one reason why the U.N. health agency is reconvening its expert committee to determine whether the epidemic merits being declared an international emergency.
Of the more than 6,000 cases globally, 99% percent and all deaths have been in China.
With fluctuating numbers of cases and deaths, scientists are only able to produce a rough estimate of the fatality rate and it’s likely many milder cases of the virus are being missed.