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Coronavirus cases in the neighborhood of 12,000 countries impose travel bans: everything we know



  View by the artist of a man wearing a surgeon's mask.

While the corona virus is spreading inside and outside of China, the World Health Organization has declared a public health emergency.


Robert Rodriguez / CNET

A new virus first discovered in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December has claimed more than 250 lives and infected nearly 12,000 Chinese citizens, according to the country's National Health Commission.

The virus, currently called 2019-nCoV, was pinned after a wave of pneumonia-like diseases appeared in the Chinese province of Hubei. It was first reported to the World Health Organization on December 31, and in the intervening month, scientists linked the disease to a family of viruses known as coronaviruses including deadly SARS and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome. [19659006] On January 30, a special WHO committee declared an public health emergency of international importance, stating "the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems." Human-to-human transfer has been confirmed outside of China, including in the US, leading authorities around the world are starting to limit travel and enforce quarantine to protect themselves from spreading.

On Friday, the US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar declared a public health emergency stating the nation's intention to protect and respond to the outbreak while noting that & # 39; the risk for Americans remains low & # 39 ;. As part of the reaction, foreign nationals who have been to China are being denied entry to the US. Starting Sunday, US citizens who have visited the Hubei province, where the outbreak began, will be quarantined for up to 14 days, while those traveling through other regions in China will be followed and must be quarantined themselves.

Australia followed its example. When three new cases were announced on Friday, Scott Morrison, the Australian Prime Minister, announced that traveling from mainland China would be denied entry to the country from 1 February.

The situation is evolving rapidly. We have collected everything we know about the new virus, the future for researchers and some steps you can take to reduce your risk.

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What is a corona virus?

Coronaviruses belong to a family known as Coronaviridae and under an electron microscope they look like pointed rings. They are named after these spikes, which form a halo or crown around their viral envelope.

Coronaviruses contain a strand of RNA in the envelope and cannot propagate as a virus without getting into living cells and hijacking their machines. The spikes on the viral envelope help coronaviruses bind to cells, giving them a way to come in, like opening the door with C4. Once inside, they turn the cell into a virus factory, using the molecular conveyor to produce more viruses, which are then sent from the cell. The virus progeny infects other cells and the cycle starts again. Typically, these types of viruses are found in animals ranging from cattle and pets to animals in the wild, such as bats. When they make the leap to humans, they can cause fever, respiratory diseases and inflammation in the lungs. In people who are immunocompromised, such as the elderly or people with HIV / AIDS, such viruses can cause serious respiratory diseases, leading to pneumonia and even death.

Extremely pathogenic coronaviruses were behind SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome) outbreaks in the last two decades. These viruses were easily transmitted from person to person. SARS, which emerged in the early 2000s, infected more than 8,000 people and resulted in nearly 800 deaths. MERS, which appeared in early 2010, infected nearly 2,500 people and led to more than 850 deaths.

Where did the virus come from?

The virus appears to have originated in Wuhan, a Chinese city about 650 miles south of Beijing with a population of more than 11 million people. The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which sells fish, as well as a range of meat from other animals, including bats and snakes, was involved in the spread at the beginning of January.

Prestigious medical journal The Lancet published a comprehensive summary of the clinical characteristics of patients infected with the disease dating back to December 1, 2019. The very first identified patient was not exposed to the market, suggesting that the virus perhaps came from somewhere else and was transported to the market, where it was able to thrive.

Chinese authorities closed the fish market on January 1.

Markets are involved in the origin and spread of viral diseases in previous epidemics, including SARS and MERS. A large majority of people who have so far confirmed that the new corona virus has come down have been at the Huanan Seafood marketplace in recent weeks. The market seems to be an integral part of the puzzle, but researchers continue to test and investigate the original cause.

An early report, published in the Journal of Medical Virology on January 22, suggested that snakes were the most likely animal reservoir for wildlife before 2019-nCoV, but the work was solidly refuted by two further studies just one day later , on Jan 23.

How contagious is the corona virus?

A widely shared Twitter thread by Eric Feigl-Ding an epidemiologist from Harvard University, suggests that the new coronavirus & # 39; thermonuclear pandemic level is poor & # 39; is known as the "r nothing" (R0) value based on a metric. This statistic helps determine the basic reproduction number of an infectious disease. In the simplest terms, the value refers to how many people can be infected by one person who carries the disease. It is generally criticized as an alarmist.

Infectious diseases such as measles have an R0 of 12 to 18, which is remarkably high. The 2002-2003 SARS epidemic had an R0 of about 3. A handful of studies that model the 2019-nCoV outbreak have given a comparable value with a range between 1.4 and 3.8. However, there is a wide variation between studies and models that try to predict the R0 of new coronavirus due to the constantly changing number of cases.

In the early stages of understanding the disease and its spread, it must be emphasized that these studies are informative, but they are not definitive. They give an indication of the potential of the disease to go from person to person, but we still do not have enough information about how the new virus is spreading.

"Some experts say it's the most contagious virus ever seen – that's wrong," MacIntyre said. "If it was highly contagious (more contagious than flu as some suggest), we should have seen hundreds, if not thousands, of cases outside of China, since Wuhan is an important travel center."

China has suggested that the virus can spread before symptoms are present. MacIntyre wrote in The Conversation on January 28 that there has been no evidence for these claims so far, but it does suggest that children and adolescents can be contagious without showing symptoms. This also makes screening at airports less impactful, because the disease has the port but shows no signs, so that it can be treacherously spread further.

Do you have to worry?

Because the virus continues to spread, it is easy to become entangled in the fear and alarm that spreads wildly through social media. There is incorrect information and disinformation swirling about the effects of the disease, where it spreads and how.

We have put together a handy fact check on the new coronavirus to reject some of the more serious claims and conspiracies.

WHO Declares a Public Health Emergency Situation

On January 30, the World Health Organization declared a public health emergency of international concern over the corona virus outbreak. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director General of the WHO, said the organization is working with national and international public health partners to get the outbreak under control.

The WHO has also made recommendations to prevent the spread of the virus and to ensure a "measured and fact-based response".

In the fall, an emergency committee met on the Ebola virus epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The meeting outlined the key strategies and commitments to strengthen and protect the spread of the disease.

On Thursday, search giant Google announced that they would collaborate with the WHO and help disseminate information through their results page.

What are the symptoms?

The new coronavirus causes symptoms that are similar to those of previously identified pathogenic coronaviruses. In currently identified patients, there appears to be a spectrum of diseases: a large number experience mild pneumonia-like symptoms, while others have a much more serious reaction.

On January 24, the prestigious medical journal The Lancet published an extensive analysis of the clinical features of the disease.

According to the report, patients with:

  • present fever, elevated body temperature.
  • Dry cough.
  • Fatigue or muscle pain.
  • Breathing difficulties.

Less common symptoms of coronavirus include:

  • Coughing up mucus or blood.
  • Headache. Diarrhea.

As the disease progresses, patients also develop pneumonia, causing the inflammation. lungs and ensures that they fill with fluid. This can be detected with an X-ray and was present in all 41 cases examined.

Is there a treatment for coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are notoriously hardy organisms. They are effective in hiding the human immune system and we have not developed reliable treatments or vaccines that can eradicate them. In most cases, health officials try to deal with the symptoms.

"There is no recognized therapeutic agent against coronaviruses," said Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, during the press conference of the Emergency Committee on January 29. "The primary goal of a coronavirus outbreak is to provide patients with adequate care, particularly in the field of respiratory support and multi-organ support."

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 look for ways to combat the disease. According to CNN, researchers from the US National Institutes of Health are already working on a vaccine although it may be a year or more removed from the release.

In particular, SARS, which infected around 8,000 people and killed around 800, seemed to run its course and then largely disappeared. It was not a vaccine that changed the tide, but effective communication between countries and a series of tools that helped to monitor the disease and its spread.

"We have learned that epidemics can be controlled without drugs or vaccines, using improved surveillance, case isolation, contact tracking, PPE and infection control measures," MacIntyre said.

A handful of organizations and research institutes have started working on vaccines, according to Global Times.

How to reduce your risk of coronavirus

With confirmed cases now seen around the world , it is possible that 2019-nCoV will spread much further than China. The WHO recommends a series of measures to protect yourself against contracting the disease, based on good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene – in much the same way as you reduce the risk of influenza . The new coronavirus spreads and infects people slightly differently than the flu, but because it primarily affects the respiratory tract, the protection measures are quite similar .

Meanwhile, the US Department of Foreign Affairs issued a travel advisory on January 30 with a blunt message: "Don't travel to China." An earlier warning from the CDC advised people to "avoid non-essential journeys."

A Twitter thread, developed by the WHO, is below.

You can also consider buying a face mask to protect yourself against the virus. You're not the only one – stocks of face masks are sold out all over the world, with Amazon and Walmart.com running short. I reported from Sydney this week and saw queues at the pharmacy that stretched down the street.

The risk of getting the virus outside of China remains low, but if you are considering buying a mask, you want to know exactly which face mask you should look for. Disposable masks can protect large drops against the penetration of the mouth or nose, but a mask is much more effective. The CNET wellness team has compiled an extensive guide for which masks you should purchase .

Updated February 1, 2:42 PM PT


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