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COVID-19 Epidemic Outside China: 34 Founders and Exponential Growth

By Yi Li, Meng Liang, Xianhong Yin, Xiaoyu Liu, Meng Hao, Zixin Hu, Yi Wang, Li Jin

Posted 03 Mar 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.03.01.20029819

BackgroundIn December 2019, pneumonia infected with a novel coronavirus burst in Wuhan, China. Now the situation is almost controlled in China but is worse outside China. We aimed to build a mathematical model to capture the global trend of epidemics outside China. MethodsIn this retrospective, outside-China diagnosis number reported from Jan 21 to Feb 28, 2020 was downloaded from WHO website. We develop a simple regression model on these numbers: O_FD O_INLINEFIG[Formula 1]C_INLINEFIGM_FD(1)C_FD where Nt is the total diagnosed patient till the ith day, t=1 at Feb 1. FindingsBased on this model, we estimate that there have been about 34 unobserved founder patients at the beginning of spread outside China. The global trend is approximately exponential, with the rate of 10 folds every 19 days. Research in contextO_ST_ABSEvidence before this studyC_ST_ABSIn December 2019, pneumonia infected with a novel coronavirus burst in Wuhan, China. Now the situation is almost controlled in China but is worse outside China. Now there are 4,691 patients across 51 countries and territories outside China. We searched PubMed and the China National Knowledge Infrastructure database for articles published up to Feb 28, 2020, using the keywords "COVID", "novel coronavirus", "2019-nCoV" or "2019 novel coronavirus". No published work about the global trend of epidemics outside China could be identified. Added value of this studyWe built a simple "log-plus" linear model to capture the global trend of epidemics outside China. We estimate that there have been about 34 unobserved founder patients at the beginning of spread outside China. The global trend is approximately exponential, with the rate of 10 folds every 19 days. Implications of all the available evidenceWith the limited number of data points and the complexity of the real situation, a straightforward model is expected to work better. Our model suggests that the COVID-19 disease follows an approximate exponential growth model stably at the very beginning. We predict that the number of confirmed patients outside China will increase ten folds in every 19 days without strong intervention by applying our model. Powerful actions on public health should be taken to combat this epidemic all over the world.

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