A virus never seen before, detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, has claimed six lives and infected dozens of Chinese citizens with pneumonia-like illness. It was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on December 31
Scientists have yet to fully understand how destructive the new virus, called 2019-nCoV, can be. Researchers and researchers are just beginning to understand where it comes from, how it is transmitted, how far it has spread and what symptoms patients are experiencing.
From January 21, the numbers of cases have skyrocketed to more than 300 in China and abroad. Chinese authorities have also confirmed that health professionals are infected with a virus, suggesting it has been transmitted from person to person. As a result, authorities are taking measures to protect themselves against spreading and the WHO will convene an emergency committee to investigate whether the virus constitutes a public health emergency on Wednesday, January 22 . Researchers believe that the number of cases may be higher than current reports suggest, and three US airports have begun screening incoming passengers for signs of illness, just like busy airports in Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Malaysia.
This is all we know about the mystery virus and the steps you can take to reduce your risk of coronavirus
What is a coronavirus? Coronaviruses belong to a family of viruses known as Coronaviridae and look like pointed rings under an electron microscope. They are so named because of these spikes, which form a halo around their viral envelope.
Coronaviruses contain a strand of RNA in their envelopes and cannot reproduce without getting into living cells and hijacking the machines found therein. The spikes on their envelopes help them bind to cells, giving them an access point. Once inside, they turn the cell into a virus factory, using the molecular conveyor to produce and transmit more viruses. The new viruses infect another cell, the cycle starts again. Typically, these types of viruses are found in animals ranging from livestock to pets and wildlife, such as bats. When they make the leap to humans, they can cause fever, respiratory diseases and inflammation in the lungs. Immune-compromised individuals, such as the elderly or people with HIV / AIDS, can cause severe respiratory diseases. turned out to be easily transferred from person to person. SARS infected more than 8,000 people and resulted in nearly 800 deaths, MERS nearly 2,500 with more than 850 deaths.
Where does the virus come from?
The virus appears to have originated in the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, a Chinese city of more than 11 million people about 650 miles south of Beijing. The market sells fish, as well as a large amount of other animal meat. However, it is still unknown whether it originated from an animal species such as previous coronaviruses, SARS and MERS.
Markets have been involved in the origin and spread of viral diseases in previous epidemics and a large majority of confirmed cases to date have been to the Huanan Seafood marketplace in recent weeks. The market seems to be an integral part of the puzzle, but researchers will have to perform a series of experiments and tests to confirm the origin of the virus.
"Testing animals in the Wuhan area, including taking samples from the markets, will provide more information," said Raina MacIntyre, head of the biosecurity research program of the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales. .
How many cases have been reported?
From January 16, 41 cases of a possible 59 were confirmed in Wuhan. On January 19, an additional case was confirmed in Shenzhen, China, with a 66-year-old man who traveled to Wuhan in December.
Another two cases were confirmed in Thailand and one case was reported in Japan on January 17. On January 20, the first case was reported in South Korea, and January 21 reported the first confirmed case in the US, a thirty-something in Washington state reportedly in a stable state at a local hospital. According to a report from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, a man from Brisbane who recently returned from Wuhan is isolated and is being tested for the disease after showing SARS-like symptoms.
The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission published a press release about Jan 18, reporting 17 new cases of the unknown virus. A day later, the Chinese authorities confirmed 136 new cases in Wuhan, Beijing and Shenzhen, bringing the total to 198 confirmed cases. The increase in cases was because Chinese health officials started looking for the virus in patients with pneumonia-like symptoms.
National authorities in China continue to monitor more than 800 residents who have visited the Wuhan market or have had long-term contact with those who presented with symptoms of the new disease.
Six deaths have been registered. The first death occurred with a 61-year-old man who had visited the Wuhan market and had chronic liver disease and abdominal tumors. The second took place with a 69-year-old man who caused serious damage to multiple organs in the hospital.
A study, published by Imperial College London on January 17, estimates that the total number of cases of 2019-nCoV could be much higher than reported, with more than 1,700 cases. The work, led by Neil Ferguson, calculated how far the virus was likely to spread based on the incubation period and the amount of travel in and out of Wuhan since it was first discovered.
How does the corona virus spread?
This is one of the most important questions that researchers are trying to answer feverishly. It is unclear which animals can act as a reservoir for the virus and how much a role the markets for live animals play in its spread. There have been no reports of health officials and counselors who have contracted the disease, suggesting that human-to-human transmission is limited – but this is still being investigated.
"It does not seem to be very contagious among people at this stage, based on around 60 known symptomatic cases so far," Macintyre said in a statement dated January 17.
The market, considered the epicenter of distribution, was closed on January 1. The World Health Organization has suggested that human-to-human transmission cannot be excluded at this stage, which could lead to concerns for authorities wishing to delay the disease.
On January 20, the Center for Infectious Disease of the University of Minnesota Research and Policy reported that health workers in China were infected with the virus. This was a notable turning point in the previous SARS epidemic, as health workers moving between countries could help spread the disease. It also confirms that human-to-human transmission is likely, which could hamper efforts to control the virus in the coming weeks.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the WHO, will convene an emergency committee on Wednesday, January 22 to determine whether or not this new virus is a public health emergency.
What are the symptoms?
The new coronavirus causes similar symptoms as previously identified pathogenic coronaviruses. In currently identified patients, there appears to be a spectrum of diseases – a large number are experiencing mild pneumonia-like symptoms, while others have a much more severe response.
Patients with elevated body temperature and dry cough. Breathing problems occur with progressive disease and can lead to shortness of breath or breathing difficulties. Pneumonia, which causes the lungs to inflammate and cause them to fill with fluid, has been observed from some breast X-ray images of the breast.
Is there a cure for coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are notoriously hardy organisms. They are effective in hiding the human immune system and we have not developed reliable vaccine treatments that can eradicate them. In most cases, health officials try to deal with the symptoms.
However, that does not mean that vaccines are impossible. Chinese scientists were able to sequence the virus's genetic code incredibly quickly, giving scientists the chance to study it and find ways to combat the new disease. According to CNN, researchers from the National Institute of Health (NIH) are already working on a vaccine – although it may be a year or more removed from the release.
How to reduce the risk of coronavirus
Although no confirmed cases of the virus have been observed outside of Asia, there is potential that it has already spread and cases can occur farther away. The WHO recommends a series of measures to protect yourself against the disease based on good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene, just as you would reduce the risk of influenza.
A Twitter thread developed by the WHO is below.
This post was originally published on January 19 and will be updated as new information becomes available.