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 viral envelope help them bind to cells, which gives them a way in. It's like opening the door with C4. Once inside, they turn the cell into a virus factory and use their molecular conveyor belt to produce more viruses that are then dispatched. The progeny of the virus infect another cell and 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 confirmed cases have been reported?
Almost 300 cases were confirmed by January. 21. Most cases are in China, but cases have been confirmed in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, and now in the United States, where a 30-year-old man in Washington State presented the disease to a local hospital.
A list of confirmed cases and their locations are below:
- China: 258 confirmed cases
- Thailand: 2 confirmed cases
- Japan: 1 confirmed cases  South Korea: 1 confirmed case
- USA: 1 confirmed ca se
- Australia: 1 suspected case
National authorities in China continue to monitor over 800 residents who visited the Wuhan market or have been in contact with people who showed symptoms of the novel disease.
Six deaths were recorded. The first death was a 61-year-old man who had visited the Wuhan market and suffered from chronic liver diseases and abdominal tumors. The second, a 69-year-old man, introduced himself to the hospital with severe damage to several organs.
A study published by Imperial College London on January 17 estimates that the total number of 2019 nCoV cases could be much higher than reported, with over 1,700 cases. The work, led by Neil Ferguson, calculated how far the virus is likely to spread based on the incubation period and the amount of travel to and from Wuhan since the first discovery.
The full WHO management report was last updated on January 21, but only includes data up to January 20.
How do we know that this is a new corona virus?
In short, Gene.
Chinese scientists have been able to isolate and decode the genetic code of the virus in patients to rule out other possible causes such as influenza and to confirm that it is a completely new virus. However, the genetic code shows that this virus is approximately 70% similar to the SARS corona virus.
Understanding the genetic code also helps researchers in two ways: it enables them to create tests that identify the virus from patient samples and gives them potential insights into the development of treatments or vaccines.
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 this time, which could worry authorities trying 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.
"The main problem is hospital outbreaks that have occurred with SARS and MERS corona viruses," says MacIntyre. "Careful triage and infection control is required to prevent these outbreaks and to protect healthcare workers." An electron microscopic image of the coronavirus that causes SARS.
Callista / Getty
What happens next?
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will call an emergency committee on Wednesday, January 22, to determine whether or not this new virus is a public health emergency.
] "If WHO declares an emergency in the area of public health to be of international concern, WHO's powers to fight epidemics can be expanded in accordance with international health regulations," says MacIntyre Republic of the Congo. The meeting outlined a number of key strategies and commitments to strengthen and protect against the spread of the disease.
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 in the currently identified patients: a large number have mild pneumonia symptoms, while others have a much stronger response.
- increased body temperature
- A dry cough
- shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
As the disease progresses, patients can also suffer from pneumonia, which ignites the lungs and causes them to fill up with X-ray-detectable 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.
In particular, SARS, which infected around 8,000 people and killed around 800, appeared to take their course and then largely disappear. It wasn't the vaccine that changed the disease, but effective communication between nations and a number of tools that helped track the disease and its spread.
Monitoring, case isolation, contact tracking, PPE, and infection control measures, "says MacIntyre.
How to reduce your risk of coronavirus
With confirmed cases in the US, Thailand, Japan, South Korea and possibly Australia. It exists the potential that 2019-nCoV could spread even further .. The WHO recommends a number of measures to protect yourself against infection with the disease based on good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene..
A Twitter thread developed by the WHO, see below.
This post was originally published on January 19 and will be updated as new information becomes available are.