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Coronavirus explained: 15th US case confirmed after MWC interrupted



  The artist's depiction of a man wearing a surgical mask.

Robert Rodriguez / CNET

Chinese health authorities continue to fight an outbreak of a pneumonia-like disease first discovered in central Wuhan in December. The disease is caused by a new coronavirus, officially known as SARS-CoV-2, which has now infected over 64,000 people and claimed more than 1

,380 lives. On Thursday, the CDC confirmed a 15th case in the United States under quarantine at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

The disease was first reported to the World Health Organization on New Year's Eve and during the intervening weeks, was associated with a family of viruses called coronaviruses, the same family responsible for the disease SARS and MERS, as well as some cases of colds. On February 11, WHO and other organizations agreed on the name COVID-19 for the disease.

On February 12, Chinese health authorities reported a jump in the number of cases and deaths in Hubei, the epicenter of the outbreak. Over 13,300 new cases were registered only in Hubei, an increase of 700% compared to the previous day. Chinese authorities had adopted a new clinical method to confirm cases Wednesday, which sees them adding "clinically diagnosed cases" to the bill, which could help patients get treatment sooner, according to CNN.

On January 30, a special WHO committee declared a public health emergency of international concern, citing "the potential for the virus to spread to countries with poorer health systems." Human-to-human transmission has been confirmed outside of China, including in the United States, and authorities around the world have restricted travel and implemented quarantines to protect against proliferation.

Barcelona's Mobile World Congress the world's largest telephone exhibition, took the outstanding step of canceling the entire show which routinely attracts 100,000 visitors from around the world. A number of companies, including LG, Amazon, Sony and Nvidia, had previously stated that they would not participate in this year's exhibition citing concerns about coronavirus.

The situation continues to evolve as more information becomes available. We've compiled everything we know about the new virus, what's next for researchers, and some of the steps you can take to reduce your risk.





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What is a corona virus?

Coronaviruses belong to a family known as Coronaviridae, and under an electron microscope they look like nailed rings. They are named for these nails, which form a halo or "crown" (corona is Latin for crown) around their viral envelope.

Coronavirus contains a single RNA strand in the envelope and as a virus cannot reproduce without entering living cells and cutting its machinery. The pins on the viral envelope help the coronavirus to bind to cells, giving them a way in, like blasting the door open with C4. Once inside, they transform the cell into a virus factory and use its molecular conveyor belt to produce more viruses, which are then sent out from the cell. The virus progeny infects other cells and the cycle restarts.

These types of virus are usually found in animals ranging from livestock and pets to wildlife such as bats. Some are responsible for diseases, such as colds. When they jump to humans, they can cause fever, respiratory disease and inflammation in the lungs. In immunocompromised individuals, such as the elderly or people with HIV-AIDS, such viruses can cause serious respiratory disease, which can lead to pneumonia and even death.

Extremely pathogenic coronaviruses have been behind SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome) for the past two decades. These viruses were easily transmitted from human to human. SARS, which emerged in the early 2000s, infected more than 8,000 people and resulted in nearly 800 deaths. MERS, which emerged in the early 2010s, infected nearly 2,500 people and resulted in more than 850 deaths.

On February 11, WHO stated that the new disease was officially called COVID-19 . "Having a name is important to prevent the use of other names that can be erroneous or stigmatizing," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of WHO, said during a briefing. "It also gives us a standard format to use for all future coronavirus outbreaks."

The Coronavirus Study Group, part of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, was responsible for naming the new coronavirus itself. According to a preprint paper uploaded to bioRxiv on February 11, the virus will be called SARS-CoV-2. The group "formally recognizes this virus as a sister to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoVs)," the species responsible for the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak. The virus itself was initially given a placeholder name "2019-nCoV."

Where did the virus come from?

The virus appears to originate in Wuhan, a Chinese city some 650 km south of Beijing, which has a population of more than 11 million people. Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which sells fish, as well as a panoply of meat from other animals, including bats, snakes and pangolins, was involved in the spread in early January.

Prestigious medical journal The Lancet published a comprehensive summary of the clinical characteristics of patients infected with the disease dating back to December 1, 2019. The very first identified patient had not been exposed to the market, suggesting that the virus may have had its origin elsewhere and has been transported to the market, where it could thrive.

Chinese authorities closed the fish market on January 1.

Markets have been involved in the origin and spread of viral diseases in previous epidemics, including SARS and MERS. A large majority of those so far confirmed that they had come down with the new corona virus had been on the Huanan Seafood market in recent weeks. The market appears to be an integrated puzzle piece, but researchers continue to test and investigate the original cause.

An early report, published in the Journal of Medical Virology on January 22, suggested that snakes were the most likely animal reservoir for SARS-CoV-2, but the work was well rejected by two further studies just a day later, on January 23.


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