Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): the portrait of a perfect storm

Ann Transl Med. 2020 Apr;8(7):497. doi: 10.21037/atm.2020.03.157.


The "novel" coronavirus disease 2019 (abbreviated "COVID-19") is the third coronavirus outbreak emerging during the past two decades. This infectious disease, sustained by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has been recently declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. Despite the concerning epidemiological burden, many people, including some policymakers, are underestimating this pandemic and are remaining enigmatically inactive against a human pathology which, for a combination of reasons, can be reasonably defined as a perfect storm (i.e., the "wrong virus" at the "wrong time"). These many paradigmatic aspects include SARS-CoV-2 structure and peculiar biology of infection, high risk of inter-human transmission, long incubation time combined with early and sustained viral load, existence of asymptomatic or mildly-symptomatic carriers, viral shedding for days after symptom relief, unfavorable progression towards respiratory distress and death in up to 5-10% of patients thus causing dramatic healthcare challenges, as well as environmental contamination. Last but not least, the combination of the current case fatality rate with the extraordinary number of people that could be potentially infected by SARS-CoV-2 would permit to estimate that the worldwide deaths for COVID-19 may even approximate those recorded during World War II if appropriate restrictive measures for preventing human-to-human transmission are not readily undertaken. Everybody should be inexcusably aware that this is not a drill, and that the consequences of inadequate action will be tragedy.

Keywords: Outbreak; coronavirus; coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); epidemics.

Publication types

  • Review