A never-before-seen virus found in central China's Wuhan city claimed six lives and infected dozens of Chinese people with pneumonia, according to the Wuhan City Health Commission. It was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on December 31
Scientists still understand exactly how destructive the new 2019 nCoV virus could be. Researchers and investigators are just beginning to understand where it comes from, how it is transmitted, how far it has spread, and what symptoms patients are facing.
Since January 21, the number of cases in China and abroad has increased to over 300. The Chinese authorities also confirmed that health professionals were infected with viruses, indicating that a person-to-person transmission has occurred. As a result, the authorities take measures to prevent their spread, and WHO convenes an emergency committee on Wednesday, January 22, to investigate whether the virus is a public health emergency. Researchers believe the number of cases may be higher than current reports suggest, and three U.S. airports have begun screening incoming passengers for signs of illness, as well as high-traffic airports in Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Malaysia.
Here's All We Know About Mystery Virus and Coronavirus Risk Reduction Measures
What is a Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses belong to a family of viruses known as Coronaviridae which look like spiked rings under an electron microscope. They are named because of these spines that form a halo around their viral envelope.
Coronaviruses contain an RNA strand in their envelope and cannot multiply without getting into living cells and kidnapping the machinery inside. The spikes on their envelope help them bind to cells, which gives them an entry point. Once inside, they turn the cell into a virus factory and use their molecular conveyor to produce and send more viruses. The new viruses infect another cell, the cycle begins again.
These virus types typically occur in animals, which range from farm animals to domestic animals and wild animals such as bats. When jumping to people, they can cause fever, respiratory problems, and inflammation in the lungs. In immunocompromised people, such as the elderly or people with HIV-AIDS, they can cause serious respiratory diseases.
The causative agents of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and middle eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS) were extremely pathogenic coronaviruses. It was found that it can be easily transmitted from person to person. SARS infected more than 8,000 people and resulted in nearly 800 deaths, MERS nearly 2,500 with over 850 deaths.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus appears from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, a Chinese city with more than 11 million inhabitants, about 650 miles south of Beijing. The market sells fish and a variety of other animal meats. However, it is not yet known whether it originated from an animal such as previous coronaviruses, SARS and MERS.
Markets have been involved in the development and spread of viral diseases in previous epidemics, and much of the confirmed cases have been observed. So far, I have been to the Huanan Seafood Marketplace in the past few weeks. The market seems to be an integral part of the puzzle, but researchers need to do a number of experiments and tests to confirm the virus's origin.
"Animal testing in the Wuhan region, including samples from the markets, will allow more information to be obtained," said Raina MacIntyre, director of the biosafety research program at the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales.
How many cases have been reported?
More than 300 on January 21 are in China, but two other cases have been confirmed in Thailand and one case was reported in Japan on January 17. On January 20, the first case was reported in South Korea and on January 21, the first confirmed case was reported in the United States, a man in his 30s in Washington State, who is reported to be in a stable condition in a local hospital. According to a report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, a Brisbane man who recently returned from Wuhan is isolated and is being tested for the disease after showing SARS-like symptoms.
National authorities in China continue to monitor over 800 residents who have become aware of the disease on the Wuhan market or have been in contact with people who have had symptoms of the novel disease for long periods of time.
Six deaths were recorded. The first death occurred on a 61-year-old man who had visited the Wuhan market and had chronic liver and abdominal tumors. The second case occurred in a 69-year-old man who presented to the hospital with severe damage to several organs.
A study published on January 17 by Imperial College London estimates the total number of 2019 nCoV cases to be much higher than reported, at over 1,700 cases. The work, led by Neil Ferguson, calculated how far the virus is likely to spread, based on its incubation period and the amount of travel in and out of Wuhan since it was first discovered.
How does the corona virus spread?
This is one of the most important questions that researchers are working feverishly to answer. It is unclear which animals act as a reservoir for the virus and what role the markets for live animals play in the spread. There are no reports of health officials and companions who have the disease, suggesting that human-to-human transmission is limited – but this is still being investigated.
"It does not appear to be very contagious between people at this stage, based on approximately 60 known symptomatic cases," Macintyre said in a statement on January 17.
The market, which was considered the epicenter of the spread, was closed on January 1st. The World Health The organization has suggested that human-to-human transmission cannot be ruled out at the present time, which could worry authorities that want to slow the disease down.
On January 20, the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Diseases was opened Research on reports that health workers in China were infected with the virus. This was a remarkable turning point in the previous SARS epidemic, as health workers who moved between countries could help spread the disease. It is also confirmed that human-to-human transmission is likely, which could hamper efforts to curb the virus in the coming weeks.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General, will set up an emergency committee on Wednesday, January 22, to determine whether or not this new virus is a public health emergency.
What are the symptoms?
The novel coronavirus causes symptoms similar to those of previously identified disease-causing coronaviruses. There appears to be a range of diseases among the currently identified patients – a large number show mild pneumonia symptoms, while others respond much more strongly.
Patients with increased body temperature and dry cough. Shortness of breath occurs as the disease progresses and can lead to shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. According to the WHO, some chest x-rays showed pneumonia that inflames the lungs and fills them with fluid.
Is there a treatment for the coronavirus?
Corona viruses are notoriously robust organisms. They are effectively hiding from the human immune system, and we have not developed reliable vaccine treatments to eradicate them. In most cases, health officials try to deal with the symptoms.
However, this does not mean that vaccinations are impossible. Chinese scientists have been able to sequence the virus' genetic code incredibly quickly, giving scientists the opportunity to study it and find ways to combat the novel disease. According to the CNN, researchers at the National Institute of Health (NIH) are already working on a vaccine. However, it could take a year or more for the vaccine to be released.
How to reduce the risk of coronaviruses
Although no confirmed cases of the virus have been observed outside Asia, there is a potential that it has spread further and more cases may occur. WHO recommends a number of measures to protect yourself from illness based on good hand hygiene and good airway hygiene, similar to how you would reduce the risk of flu.
A Twitter thread developed by WHO is
This post was originally published on January 19 and will be updated as new information becomes available.