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Coronavirus outbreak: disease gets official name, new cases are denied



  Artist & # 39; s rendering of a man wearing a surgical mask.

Robert Rodriguez / CNET

Chinese health authorities continue to fight against an outbreak of pneumonia-like illness, first discovered in the central city of Wuhan in December. The disease is caused by a new coronavirus, officially known as SARS-CoV-2, which has now infected more than 45,000 people and claimed more than 1

,100 lives.

The disease was first reported to the World Health Organization on New Year's Eve. and in the intervening weeks, was linked to a family of viruses known as coronaviruses, the same family responsible for SARS and MERS diseases, as well as some cases of colds. On February 11, the WHO and other organizations reached agreement on the name COVID-19 for the disease.

New cases in the Chinese province of Hubei have now declined on the following days according to the Chinese media service CGTN.

A special WHO committee declared on 30 January a public health emergency of international importance, stating "the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems." Human-to-human transmission has been confirmed outside of China, including in the US, and authorities around the world have limited journeys and enforced quarantines to protect themselves from spreading.

The Mobile World Congress of Barcelona, ​​& # 39; the world's largest mobile trade show, has increased its security measures against increasing concerns about the spread of the virus . Chinese travelers from Hubei will be banned from this year's exhibition and all participants who have traveled through China in the last 14 days will be screened and refused entry. A number of companies, including LG, Amazon, Sony and Nvidia have stated that they will not attend this year's show citing concerns about coronavirus.

The situation continues to evolve as more information becomes available. We have collected everything we know about the new virus, what the future offers 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 they look like pointed rings under an electron microscope. They are named after these spikes, which form a halo or "crown" (Latin: corona) around their viral envelope.

Coronaviruses contain a single RNA strand in the envelope and cannot propagate as viruses without entering live 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. Some are responsible for diseases such as the common cold. 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) 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.

On February 11, the WHO said that the new disease was officially called COVID-19 . "Having a name is important to prevent the use of other names that may be inaccurate or stigmatizing," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the WHO, during a briefing. "It also gives us a standard format to use for future coronavirus outbreaks."

The Coronavirus Study Group, part of the International Commission for Taxonomy of Viruses, was responsible for naming the new coronavirus itself. According to a preprint paper that was uploaded to bioRxiv on 11 February, the virus will be called SARS-CoV-2. The group "formally recognizes this virus as a sister of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronaviruses (SARS-CoV & # 39; s)", the species responsible for the outbreak of SARS in 2002-2003. The virus itself was originally given the temporary indication "2019-nCoV".

Where does 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 panoply of meat from other animals, including bats, snakes, and pangolins, was involved in the distribution in early 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 might be somewhere else came from 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 for SARS-CoV-2, but the work was properly refuted by two further studies just one day later, on January 23.


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