MADRID – The current outbreak of coronavirus 2019-nCoV, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has stirred memories of several other epidemics coming from the Asian nation over the decades, such as Asian flu, Hong Kong flu, bird flu and severe acute respiratory syndrome, best known as SARS.
ASIAN FLU.- Caused by the H2N2 virus, Asian flu emerged in February 1957 in the southern Chinese province of Guizhou, from where it spread to neighboring Hunan.
By April, outbreaks were confirmed in cities like Hong Kong and Singapore, from where it spread around the world.
Another outbreak occurred in 1958, causing an estimated death toll of more than a million people worldwide.
HONG KONG FLU.- In July 1968, an H3H2 virus broke out somewhere in China’s interior before spreading to Hong Kong.
By September of that year, it had spread to the United States, Europe and Southeast Asia. It hit Japan in January 1969 and more cases were reported in South America and Africa later that year.
More than a million people died as a result of Hong Kong flu.
BIRD FLU.- Avian influenza (H5N1) was first detected in humans in Hong Kong in 1997, killing six of the 18 people who contracted the virus.
It reappeared in 2003 and spread through Asia to Europe and Africa.
Millions of birds contracted the disease between 2003-2017. In that same period, it was responsible for the death of at least 450 people, mostly in Southeast Asia, according to the World Health Organization.
In March 2013, another strain of bird flu, H7N9, appeared in China and killed more than 200 people.
SARS.- The WHO had already accused China of covering up a domestic outbreak of SARS in March 2003 when it declared an international alert.
It took four months to contain, in which time it had infected more than 8,400 people and left at least 812 dead in about 30 countries.
H1N1.- Between 2009-10, China suffered an outbreak of H1N1, a virus that had first been detected in Mexico in 2009. It was first detected in Asia on May 1 in Hong Kong.