A never before seen virus discovered in the Chinese city of Wuhan has claimed at least 25 lives and hundreds of Chinese citizens infected with pneumonia-like illness, according to the Chinese National Health Commission. The virus was first reported to the World Health Organization on December 31
Scientists have yet to fully understand the destructive potential of the new virus, known as 2019-nCoV. Researchers and researchers are just starting to figure out where it comes from, how it is transferred and how far it has spread.
As of Thursday, the number of numbers had skyrocketed to more than 800 in China and abroad. Chinese authorities have also confirmed that health professionals are infected with the virus, suggesting that human-to-human transmission is possible. Authorities take measures to protect themselves against dissemination. On Thursday, the World Health Organization convened an emergency committee to investigate whether the virus is a public health emergency. The body has decided that is too early to report an emergency on a global level.
The situation is evolving rapidly. We have collected everything we know about the mystery virus, what the future offers researchers and some steps you can take to reduce your risk.
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 around their viral envelope.
Coronaviruses contain a strand of RNA in their envelope and cannot reproduce without entering living cells and hijacking their machines. The spikes on the viral envelope help them bind to cells, giving them a way to come in. Once inside, they turn the cell into a virus factory, using the molecular conveyor to produce more viruses, which are then sent. The virus progeny infects other cells and the cycle starts again. Typically, these types of viruses are found in animals ranging from cattle to pets to wildlife, such as bats. When they make the leap to humans, they can cause fever, respiratory diseases and inflammation in the lungs. In immunocompromised persons, such as the elderly or people with HIV / AIDS, such viruses can cause serious respiratory diseases.
Extremely pathogenic coronaviruses were behind SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS and 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 does the virus come from?
The virus appears to have originated in the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, a Chinese city about 650 miles south of Beijing with a population of more than 11 million people. The market sells fish, as well as a large amount of other animal meat. However, it is still unknown whether the virus originated from a species, such as SARS and MERS. The Wuhan market was closed on January 1.
Markets have been involved in the origin and spread of viral diseases in previous epidemics, and a large majority of people so far have confirmed that they have been using this coronavirus Huanan Seafood market 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 market sampling, will provide more information," said Raina MacIntyre, head of the biosafety research program at the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales.
On Wednesday, a report by a team of Chinese researchers in the Journal of Medical Virology suggested that snakes were the most likely animal reservoir for wildlife before 2019-nCoV. The work examined the genetic code of the virus and compared it to that of two species of snakes, the multi-band krait and the Chinese cobra. The research showed that the genetic code of the snakes had the most similarities with the virus. Other animals known to be sold on the Huanan market (bats, birds, hedgehogs and marmots) were also analyzed, but did not show the same level of genetic similarity.
Another study refuted these claims, suggesting that 2019-nCoV was housed by bats.