A recent simulation, run by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, shows that humanity is incredibly vulnerable to the spread of a pandemic virus. Despite only being “moderately contagious” and “moderately lethal” the simulated virus, in 20 months of simulated time, was able to kill 150 million people.
If efforts to create a vaccine failed, the simulation projected the virus could kill 900 million. The scenario was designed to be completely realistic, with a disease that could plausibly exist and a world that has the exact same resources to respond as we do now.
Patients presented with fever, cough, and confusion. In the simulation, researchers were quickly able to isolate what appeared to be a new pathogen, a disease-causing agent from a family of respiratory viruses that normally causes mild illnesses, but with genetic elements of the Nipah virus, an extremely deadly virus the WHO considers an urgent research priority.
In the simulation, the virus was very similar to SARS, that infected more than 8,000 people and killed around 10% of the people that got it. SARS isn’t very contagious until people are already very sick, which limits the spread in public spaces. The simulation virus was different from SARS as it could spread relatively fast in public spaces.