Virus behind China’s pneumonia outbreak
BEIJING — Since late last year, people in the central Chinese city of Wuhan have been infected with a viral pneumonia whose cause was unknown. The outbreak raised the specter of another SARS epidemic, which killed hundreds in 2002 and 2003.
A preliminary investigation has now identified the respiratory disease as a new type of coronavirus, Chinese state media reported Thursday, citing scientists handling the investigation.
As of Friday, local authorities reported 41 suffering from pneumonia caused by a “preliminarily determined new type of coronavirus,” down from the earlier figure of 59. It said those were in stable condition and at least two had been released from a hospital.
What are coronaviruses?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses first identified in humans in the mid-1960s. Some cause the common cold, while others found in bats, camels and other animals have evolved into more severe illnesses.
The name comes from the Latin word “corona,” meaning a halo or crown, which the viruses resemble when viewed under a microscope.
What are the symptoms?
Common symptoms include a runny nose, headache, cough and fever. Shortness of breath, chills and body aches are associated with more dangerous kinds of coronavirus, according to the U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention.
How are coronaviruses spread?
Many coronaviruses can spread through coughing or sneezing, or by touching an infected person, but officials said the present illness does not not transmit readily between people
The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said some of the infected patients ran businesses in a seafood market, meaning it’s possible they were infected by animals there. The market is being suspended and investigated.
Is it anything like sars?
SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, belongs to the coronavirus family, but Chinese state media say the illness in Wuhan is different from coronaviruses that have been identified in the past. Earlier laboratory tests ruled out SARS and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), as well as influenza, bird flu, adenovirus and other common lung-infecting germs.
SARS emerged as a novel coronavirus in 2002, first infecting people in southern China, then spreading to more than two dozen countries. More than 8,000 people were sickened and more than 700 died.
Another form of coronavirus causes MERS, an illness that began in Jordan and Saudi Arabia in 2012 before spreading to about two dozen other countries. It has resulted in more than 800 deaths, with the majority reported from Saudi Arabia.