JAN 21, 2020 8:29 AM PST

New Coronavirus is Spreading in China

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

In late December, health officials in China notified the country office of the World Health Organization that pneumonia with an unknown cause was sickening people in Wuhan City in the Hubei Province of China. By January 3, 2020, authorities had reported 44 confirmed cases of pneumonia to WHO; eleven of the patients were severely ill, and the remainder were in stable condition. The people who first got sick all worked at the South China Seafood City market, which was closed for decontamination. Officials began to work to determine the cause of the outbreak, which was thought to be a virus.

"We have excluded several hypotheses, in particular the fact that it is a flu, an avian flu, an adenovirus, respiratory syndrome severe acute (SARS) or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)," the Wuhan health commission said.

More people have gotten sick since then, however, and three have died. The number of confirmed cases has now reached 224. While this situation is a dramatic improvement over the 2002 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak, in which authorities in China were thought to have significantly underreported the number of sick individuals and notified global authorities well after the outbreak began, there are still concerns that more people have actually become infected than the official number reflects in this case as well.

After known viruses were ruled out as the cause of the illnesses, the newly-discovered pathogen was found to be a member of the Coronavirus family and the strain has been dubbed 2019-nCoV. Coronaviruses can cause a host of illnesses that may be as mild as the common cold, but also include more serious and life-threatening problems like SARS and MERS. These pathogens primarily impact the respiratory system and cause coughing, fever, trouble breathing, and pneumonia.

 highly magnified, digitally colorized TEM image highlighting the particle envelope of a Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) virion / Credit: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Initially, it was thought that this novel virus could not be spread from one person to another, but that appears to have changed. Some health care workers have fallen ill, which indicates that it's possible for a sick person to cause infection in a healthy individual. This could become especially problematic as the country prepares for its lunar new year celebrations that are scheduled to start in a few days. Luckily, the person-to-person transmission does not seem to be happening easily.

“The speed with which this virus has been identified and the sharing of that information by China, has been amazing, a testament to the changes in public health in China since SARS and the global coordination through the World Health Organization,” noted Dr. Jeremy Farrar, a British medical researcher and Director of Wellcome Trust. “But we must not be complacent… There is more to come from this epidemic.”

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
APR 15, 2020
Immunology
APR 15, 2020
How Malaria Protects Itself from the Immune System
A specific parasitic species causes the most deaths from malaria: Plasmodium falciparum. This parasite does so by avoidi ...
APR 26, 2020
Microbiology
APR 26, 2020
Researchers Design A Polio Vaccine That Won't Cause Polio
Sustained, intense efforts to vaccinate were getting the world very close to eradicating polio, but the vaccine itself o ...
MAY 04, 2020
Neuroscience
MAY 04, 2020
Certain Gut Bacteria Improves Memory in Mice
Researchers from the US Department of Energy national laboratories have found that certain gut bacteria are able to impr ...
MAY 26, 2020
Microbiology
MAY 26, 2020
Rabbits in North America are Threatened by a Deadly Virus
A deadly virus has been spreading among the wild rabbit populations of the southwestern United States. This devastating ...
JUN 21, 2020
Microbiology
JUN 21, 2020
Poor Oral Hygiene May Worsen Gut Inflammation
Good dental hygiene benefits more than just the teeth and gums; researchers have found that poor oral health can contrib ...
JUN 29, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
JUN 29, 2020
Why Two Similar Bacterial Toxins Cause Different Illnesses
The microbial pathogens of the world have shown us how powerful they can be, most recently proven by the current pandemi ...
Loading Comments...