A never before seen virus discovered in the Chinese city of Wuhan has claimed more than 50 lives and more than 2,000 Chinese citizens infected with pneumonia-like disease, according to the Chinese National Health Commission. The virus was first reported to the World Health Organization on December 31
On Friday, the French authorities confirmed three cases in the country, the first known cases in Europe and Australia announced four. On Sunday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a third case in the US, this time in Southern California. There are now more than 60 patients under investigation for possible infection in more than 20 US states, according to Dr. Nancy Messonnier from the CDC.
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.
From Sunday there were more than 2,000 cases 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 are taking measures to guard against the spread of 2019-nCoV. On Thursday a special WHO committee decided that was too early to report a public health emergency on a global level. On Saturday, however, Hong Kong declared an emergency situation throughout the city, the highest warning level, canceling all official Chinese New Year celebrations and extending school holidays for the holidays until 17 February. Also on Saturday, China said it would be straining from Monday for some of its citizens going abroad, including suspending tour groups and temporarily stopping the sale of flight and hotel packages.
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 they look like pointed rings under an electron microscope. 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. It's like shooting the door with C4 open. 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 over 11 million people. The market sells fish, as well as an abundance of meat from other animals, including bats and snakes. 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 in the Journal of Medical Virology by a team of Chinese researchers 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 showed many similarities with the virus.
Shortly thereafter, two preprint studies refuted these claims, suggesting that 2019-nCoV is probably from bats.