What is Covid-19 – the illness that started in Wuhan?

It is caused by a member of the coronavirus family that has never been encountered before. Like other coronaviruses, it has come from animals. Many of those initially infected either worked or frequently shopped in the Huanan seafood wholesale market in the centre of the Chinese city.

What are the symptoms this coronavirus causes?

The virus can cause pneumonia. Those who have fallen ill are reported to suffer coughs, fever and breathing difficulties. In severe cases there can be organ failure. As this is viral pneumonia, antibiotics are of no use. The antiviral drugs we have against flu will not work. Recovery depends on the strength of the immune system. Many of those who have died were already in poor health.

Should I go to the doctor if I have a cough?

In the UK, the medical advice is that if you have recently travelled from areas affected by coronavirus, you should:

  • stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as you would with the flu
  • call NHS 111 to inform them of your recent travel to the area

More NHS advice on what to do if you think you have been exposed to the virus can be found here, and the full travel advice to UK nationals is available here.

Is the virus being transmitted from one person to another?

China’s national health commission has confirmed human-to-human transmission, and there have been such transmissions elsewhere.


CDC is responding to an outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that was first detected in China and which has now been detected in almost 70 locations internationally, including in the United States. The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”).

On January 30, 2020, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern external icon” (PHEIC). On January 31, 2020, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II declared a public health emergency (PHE) for the United States to aid the nation’s healthcare community in responding to COVID-19.

Source and Spread of the Virus

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and now with this new virus (named SARS-CoV-2).

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is a betacoronavirus, like MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV.  All three of these viruses have their origins in bats. The sequences from U.S. patients are similar to the one that China initially posted, suggesting a likely single, recent emergence of this virus from an animal reservoir.

Early on, many of the patients at the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. Later, a growing number of patients reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread. Person-to-person spread was subsequently reported outside Hubei and in countries outside China, including in the United States. Some international destinations now have apparent community spread with the virus that causes COVID-19, including in some parts of the United States. Community spread means some people have been infected and it is not known how or where they became exposed.

Learn what is known about the spread of this newly emerged coronaviruses.

Coronavirus symptoms

The viruses can make people sick, usually with a mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illness, similar to a common cold. Coronavirus symptoms include a runny nose, cough, sore throat, possibly a headache and maybe a fever, which can last for a couple of days.

For those with a weakened immune system, the elderly and the very young, there’s a chance the virus could cause a lower, and much more serious, respiratory tract illness like a pneumonia or bronchitis.

There are a handful of human coronaviruses that are known to be deadly.

Middle East respiratory syndrome, also known as the MERS virus, was first reported in the Middle East in 2012 and also causes respiratory problems, but those symptoms are much more severe. Three to four out of every 10 patients infected with MERS died, according to the CDC.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome, also known as SARS, is the other coronavirus that can cause more severe symptoms. First identified in the Guangdong province in southern China, according to the WHO, it causes respiratory problems but can also cause diarrhea, fatigue, shortness of breath, respiratory distress and kidney failure. Depending on the patient’s age, the death rate with SARS ranged from 0-50% of the cases, with older people being the most vulnerable.

The Wuhan coronavirus is currently thought to be more mild than SARS and MERS and takes longer to develop symptoms. Patients to date have typically experienced a mild cough for a week followed by shortness of breath, causing them to visit the hospital, explains Peter Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases and global health at the University of Oxford. So far, around 15% to 20% of cases have become severe, requiring, for example, ventilation in the hospital.

How it spreads

Viruses can spread from human contact with animals. Scientists think MERS started in camels, according to the WHO. With SARS, scientists suspected civet cats were to blame. Officials do not yet know what animal may have caused the current outbreak in Wuhan.

When it comes to human-to-human transmission of the viruses, often it happens when someone comes into contact with an infected person’s secretions, such as droplets in a cough.

Depending on how virulent the virus is, a cough, sneeze or handshake could cause exposure. The virus can also be transmitted by touching something an infected person has touched and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes. Caregivers can sometimes be exposed by handling a patient’s waste, according to the CDC.

Human-to-human transmission has been confirmed for the Wuhan coronavirus, but experts are now trying to understand who is transmitting it most, who is at most risk and whether transmission is occurring mostly in hospitals or in the community. SARS and MERS were largely transmitted inside hospitals, Horby said. Some people are also considered to be “superspreaders.”

Who is affected?

MERS, SARS and the Wuhan coronavirus appear to cause more severe disease in older people, though uncertainty remains around the latest outbreak. Of the cases of Wuhan coronavirus reported so far, none are yet confirmed to be among children, Horby said. The average age is people 40 or over, he said.

Coronavirus treatment

There is no specific treatment, but research is underway. Most of the time, symptoms will go away on their own and experts advise seeking care early. If symptoms feel worse than a standard cold, see your doctor.

Doctors can relieve symptoms by prescribing a pain or fever medication. The CDC says a room humidifier or a hot shower can help with a sore throat or cough.

Drink plenty of fluids, get rest and sleep as much as possible.

England total almost doubles, to 80

England’s confirmed case total jumped by 32 on Wednesday, to a total of 80. All but four of the new patients had recently traveled to countries with relatively large outbreaks or were part of “recognized clusters” that were being investigated, the government said. Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland have had a total of five cases.

Upside: More than 16,500 tests across the U.K. have come back negative, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.

“Today we’re announcing that people self-isolating will get Statutory Sick Pay from the first day off work,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a speech to parliament.

Fauci: Vaccine could be a year away

Public health leaders told senators Tuesday that although scientists are working toward a vaccine, it won’t be available anytime soon. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, indicated potential treatments may come before a vaccine. “The timelines are fundamentally different,” he said.

Fauci said a vaccine would take at least a year to a year-and-a-half. Nine people in the U.S. have died after being infected with coronavirus, all in Washington state. There are at least 127 confirmed cases in the country. Pharmaceutical company Gilead is testing a potential treatment: “We’ll know in a few months if it works,” Fauci said.

– Adrianna Rodriguez

How many cases of coronavirus in the US, and where?

There were 127 confirmed cases across at least 15 states as of early Wednesday, according to a coronavirus dashboard run by Johns Hopkins University.

That number is expected to get bigger, though, as the CDC has expanded its testing efforts and encouraged more testing at health centers across the country. 

Common signs of infection include fever, cough and breathing difficulties. If the infection worsens, it can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and death.

What’s the worldwide coronavirus death toll?

The global death toll was at 3,198 early Wednesday, with more than 2,900 in mainland China, where the outbreak began in the bustling capital of the country’s Hubei province, Wuhan. While Chinese officials said Tuesday they believed “victory” against the virus was coming as new cases dropped to a six-week low, Italy and Iran were among the countries under siege, reporting 79 and 77 deaths, respectively.

The worldwide count of confirmed cases was at 93,158 early Wednesday.

Seattle Public Schools lays out coronavirus response plan

There are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Seattle Public Schools — and the district wants to keep it that way. SPS on Tuesday night announced new guidelines for its response to the novel outbreak that has killed nine people in Washington state while stressing that custodial staff in schools across the district will prioritize cleaning common and high-traffic areas, including bathrooms and lunchrooms, multiple times each day.

Amazon confirms its first US case of coronavirus in Seattle

One of America’s tech giants, Amazon, confirmed its first U.S. case of coronavirus on Tuesday, an employee at its sprawling Seattle facility. The employee went home sick on Feb. 25 and “has not entered Amazon offices since that time,” according to an email sent to Amazon employees. The company told USA TODAY that it learned of the positive diagnosis on Tuesday.

“We’re supporting the affected employee who is in quarantine,” the company said in a statement. The employee works at the company’s Brazil building, a 12-story, 317,000-square-foot downtown complex built in 2015, the Seattle Times reported. Amazon encouraged employees experiencing symptoms to “please stay home and seek medical attention.” The company also is “continuing with enhanced deep cleaning and sanitization in the office.”

Facebook gives free advertising to combat virus misinformation

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says the social network is stepping up its efforts to combat virus-related misinformation by giving the World Health Organization free advertising. Zuckerberg said in a post on his Facebook account that the company is working with national health ministries and global organizations like the World Health Orgnization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF to get out timely and accurate information on the virus. Zuckerberg said Facebook will also give “support and millions more in ad credits” to other unspecified organizations.

What is the difference between Coronavirus and COVID-19

COVID-19 is the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, which originated from China’s Wuhan. On February, World Health Organisation (WHO) named the novel coronavirus “COVID-19”. “Co” stands for “corona”, “vi” for “virus” and “d” for “disease”, while “19” was for the year, as the outbreak was first identified on December 31.

According to the WHO, “there are different procedures, and purposes, for naming viruses and diseases.

“Viruses are named based on their genetic structure to facilitate the development of diagnostic tests, vaccines and medicines.”

Viruses are named by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV). 

This particular virus was named “severe acute respiratory coronavirus 2” – or SARS-CoV-2.

The WHO says that “from a risk communications perspective, using the name SARS can have unintended consequences in terms of creating unnecessary fear for some populations, especially in Asia which was worst affected by the SARS outbreak in 2003”.

Hence, the name ‘Covid-19 virus” was given.

Symptoms of coronavirus

Coronavirus can make people sick, usually with a mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illness, similar to a common cold. Some of the symptoms are

— A general feeling of being unwell

— Runny nose

— Sore throat

— Headache

— Cough

— Fever

In case someone is facing lower-respiratory tract illnesses, such as pneumonia or bronchitis, they must seek professional health immediately.

Who is more likely to be a victim coronavirus?

People with a weakened immune system, cardiopulmonary disease, infants, and older adults are more likely to be affected by a coronavirus.

How do you catch coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are zoonotic. This implies that they are passed on between animals and people. When Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) sickened thousands of people around the world — and killed nearly 800 — during a 2003 outbreak, investigations found that it was transmitted from civet cats to humans. MERS-CoV was transmitted from camels to humans. There are several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans. On January 7, the Chinese authorities identified coronavirus (2019-nCoV) as the causative virus behind cases of pneumonia of unknown cause. This novel coronavirus has not been previously identified in humans, hence experts say its too early to figure out the exact cause of the infection.

Will the coronavirus spread through cough or sex?

Coronavirus is highly contagious. The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch the virus by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also fall victim to virus even if they breathe in droplets from a person infected who coughs out or exhales droplets. Click here to read more.

How dangerous is coronavirus? Does coronavirus cause death?

A few coronaviruses are known to be deadly. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which was first reported in the Middle East, causes severe respiratory problems. Four out of every 10 patients infected with MERS died in 2012.

The infamous Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) causes even more severe symptoms. Along with respiratory problems, it also causes diarrhoea, shortness of breath, fatigue and kidney failure. The death rate with SARS was higher, with older people being the most vulnerable.

The new virus (COVID-19) claimed over 3,000 lives and over 93,000 people were diagnosed positive.

How is coronavirus diagnosed?

Doctors may recommend the patient to undergo tests on respiratory specimens and serum to detect coronaviruses. If anyone experiences the symptoms, they must inform their doctor about recent travel or contact with animals.

Is there a vaccine for coronavirus?

There is no specific treatment for coronavirus, and no vaccine to prevent it.

How contagious is coronavirus?

— Coronaviruses are highly contagious. Coughing and sneezing without covering the mouth can spread the virus.

— Touching hands of a person that has the virus can pass the virus from one person to another

— Making contact with an object that has the virus and then touching your nose, eyes, or mouth can infect a person

— A coronavirus may spread through contact with faeces.

Coronavirus and pregnancy

In pregnant women, the severe versions of SARS and MERS coronaviruses were found to be severe. According to reports, women who suffered from severe versions of coronaviruses had stillbirth.

What are the precautions for Coronavirus?

— Wash your hands thoroughly with soap

— Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unclean hands

— Avoid close contact with people who are sick

— Avoid public gatherings


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