Novel Coronavirus 2019
This month has seen a flourish of reporting, and speculation, about the novel Coronavirus (CoV) outbreak in China. This is understandable in the light of the havoc other CoV's have caused in the past, one only has to think back to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003 which resulted in the infection of over 8,000 people and the deaths of nearly 800 to understand why everyone is so interested in this latest CoV.
Stories began to emerge this month that cases of a pneumonia of unknown origin had been occurring in Wuhan City, Hubei province, China, since December. Information was initially slow in coming out of China, but once it was released scientists, researchers, and medics were able to reach out to their respective communities internationally for assistance. It had been ascertained that what we were looking at was a coronavirus, but it was not the same as those which are known to cause SARS or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), officials in China released the information they already had and the wider community quickly helped to map the viruses phylogenetic tree. This showed that the CoV was indeed novel, and that it was most closely related to the virus that causes SARS.
It is believed the origin of the virus is a seafood market in Wuhan that, according to offiicals "conducted illegal transactions of wild animals". So far there have been 440 confirmed cases in China, with singular imported cases showing up in the US, Japan, and Korea, and three cases in Thailand, all of the patients originated from China. It is transmissible between people as demonstrated by the fact that at least 15 healthcare workers have become infected. At time of reporting there have been six reported deaths, all of which are believed to have been of people with pre-existing comorbidities.
There are undoubtedly going to be sharp increases seen in the numbers of infected on and off as vigilance and reporting improve. We wait to see if this new coronavirus turns out to be as virulent as its predecessors and will keep you posted.