Experts fear latest strain of virus may spread across planet from person to person
What is the virus causing illness in Wuhan?
It is a novel coronavirus – that is to say, a member of the coronavirus family that has never been encountered before. Like other coronaviruses, it has come from animals, or possibly seafood. Many of those infected either worked or frequently shopped in the Huanan seafood wholesale market in the center of the Chinese city. New and troubling viruses usually originate in animal hosts. Ebola and flu are examples.
What other coronaviruses have there been?
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (Mers) are both caused by coronaviruses that came from animals. Although Mers is believed to be transmitted to humans from dromedary camels, the original hosts for both coronaviruses were probably bats. The first cases of Sars were in (China
Coronavirus What are the symptoms caused by the Wuhan coronavirus?
The virus causes pneumonia. Those who have fallen ill are reported to suffer coughs, fever and breathing difficulties. As this is viral pneumonia, antibiotics are of no use. Antiviral drugs may be used, but usually only lessen the severity of symptoms. If people are admitted to hospital, they may get breathing support as well as fluids. Recovery will depend on the strength of their immune system. Those who have died are known to have been already in poor health.
Is the virus being transmitted from one person to another?
Human to human transmission is now thought to be a real possibility, although it is not happening easily as was the case with (Sars) . As of 37 January the Chinese authorities had acknowledged cases, double the number previously reported, and three deaths. Modeling carried out by Imperial College experts has suggested there may be more than 1, cases. Those that are mild may not be detected at all.
How worried are the experts?
There are fears that the coronavirus may spread more widely and person to person during the Chinese new year holidays at the end of this month, when millions of people travel home to celebrate. At the moment, it appears that people in poor health are at greatest risk, as is always the case with flu. But the authorities will be keen to stop the spread and anxious that the virus will become more potent than so far appears.
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