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In the US, coronavirus spreads from person to person: everything we know



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Robert Rodriguez / CNET

A never before seen virus discovered in the Chinese city of Wuhan has claimed 1

70 lives and nearly 7,700 Chinese citizens infected with pneumonia-like illness, according to the country's National Health Commission . The virus known as 2019-nCoV, was first reported to the World Health Organization on December 31 and has since been investigated. Chinese scientists linked the disease to a family of viruses known as coronaviruses including deadly SARS and respiratory syndrome in the Middle East.

On January 23 a special WHO committee decided that was too early to declare a public health emergency on a global level. However, after the human-to-human transmission outside of China, including the US, has been confirmed, the WHO has decided to hold an emergency meeting on Thursday.

All over the world, authorities are taking measures to guard against the spread of 2019-nCoV. Hong Kong has imposed travel restrictions to and from mainland China, the US has announced increasing screening measures at 20 different ports of entry and further spread has been detected in Germany and Japan. On Wednesday, new cases appeared in the United Arab Emirates, Finland, Tibet, Australia, and Singapore, and Thursday, health officials announced the first copy of the virus-to-person spread in the US, in Illinois. That patient is married to the Chicago woman who fell ill after returning from a trip to Wuhan, according to the Associated Press.

The situation is evolving rapidly. We've collected everything we know about the mystery 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 livestock 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 immunocompromised individuals, such as the elderly or people with HIV-AIDS, such viruses can cause serious respiratory disease, resulting in pneumonia and even death. Highly pathogenic coronaviruses were behind SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East) 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 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 sells fish, as well as an abundance of meat from other animals, including bats and snakes. After infections were linked to the market, the Chinese authorities closed it 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.

Prestigious medical journal The Lancet published a comprehensive summary of the clinical characteristics of patients infected with the disease that extends to December 1, 2019. The very first identified patient was not exposed to the market, suggesting it The virus may have originated somewhere else and been transported to the market where it could thrive.

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 firmly refuted by two further studies, one day later , on January 23.


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