Purpose of review: The COVID-19 pandemic poses a major global health threat. The rapid spread was facilitated by air travel although rigorous travel bans and lockdowns were able to slow down the spread. How does COVID-19 compare with other emerging viral diseases of the past two decades?
Recent findings: Viral outbreaks differ in many ways, such as the individuals most at risk e.g. pregnant women for Zika and the elderly for COVID-19, their vectors of transmission, their fatality rate, and their transmissibility often measured as basic reproduction number. The risk of geographic spread via air travel differs significantly between emerging infectious diseases. COVID-19 is not associated with the highest case fatality rate compared with other emerging viral diseases such as SARS and Ebola, but the combination of a high reproduction number, superspreading events and a globally immunologically naïve population has led to the highest global number of deaths in the past 20 decade compared to any other pandemic.
Keywords: Chikungunya; Dengue; Ebola; Japanese encephalitis; Measles; Monkeypox; SARS; West Nile encephalitis; Yellow fever; Zika.