Authors: Martha Powell, Future Science Group
It has been reported that a novel coronavirus is the cause of mysterious pneumonia in China. The virus was initially identified in Wuhan, China and cases of the virus, 2019-nCoV, have been detected in Thailand, South Korea and Japan.
Over 200 confirmed cases have now been reported to the WHO by authorities in China, as of 20 January 2020, with over 139 new cases of the novel virus reported in the past 2 days. Among these cases there have been three deaths reported, although one patient is thought to have had serious underlying medical conditions.
The cluster was initially reported on 31 December 2019, with the novel coronavirus isolated on 7 January 2020. Testing was then carried out on all suspected cases at the time, identifying the virus in several patients.
On 13 January the WHO announced it was working with officials in Thailand and China following reports of confirmation of the novel coronavirus in a person in Thailand; the individual is a traveler from Wuhan, was identified on 8 January and was hospitalized on the same day. The Japanese case was confirmed on 16 January and the WHO stated that, considering global travel patterns, additional cases in other countries are likely. In addition, on January 20, a case was reported in South Korea, and cases were reported in the Chinese capital Beijing and the southern hub of Shenzhen.
All patients are isolated and receiving treatment. The clinical signs and symptoms are primarily fever, with a few patients experiencing difficulty in breathing and radiographs demonstrating invasive lesions in both lungs.
China shared the genetic sequence of the novel coronavirus on 12 January and on 16 January researchers from the German Center for Infection Research (Berlin, Germany) announced that they had developed a new laboratory assay to detect the novel Chinese coronavirus. The assay protocol has now been published by WHO as a guideline for diagnostic detection.
Analysis of the genetic codes has suggested the novel coronavirus is more closely related to SARS than any other coronavirus.
Following the Thai case the WHO have called for on-going active monitoring and preparedness in other countries. The WHO stated: “Not enough is known about 2019-nCoV to draw definitive conclusions about how it is transmitted, clinical features of disease, or the extent to which it has spread. The source also remains unknown.”
The authorities have reported that some patients were operating vendors or dealers in the Huanan seafood market. The Chinese authorities suggest that there has been no evidence of human-to-human transmission, however, the WHO has stated there may have been: “some limited human-to-human transmission occurring between close contacts.”
Officials have reported that the concerned market in Wuhan was closed on 1 January 2020 for environmental sanitation and disinfection. Individuals traveling for the Lunar New Year, however, poses a concern that athorities may noe be able to monitor further spread of this pneumonia in China.
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Sources: www.who.int/china/news/detail/09-01-2020-who-statement-regarding-cluster-of-pneumonia-cases-in-wuhan-china#.XhboyJuKMZg.twitter ; www.who.int/csr/don/12-january-2020-novel-coronavirus-china/en/; www.who.int/csr/don/16-january-2020-novel-coronavirus-japan-ex-china/en/