As most of us know, the Wuhan Coronavirus (now known as 2019-nCoV) has been making headlines around the world. 2019-nCoV is a novel virus—meaning that it has never been seen before by researchers. Despite this, researchers do have some insights, so let’s review the current state of the Wuhan Coronavirus and what we know so far.
The Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at JHU is tracking the 2019-nCoV spread in real-time. Click the image to view the tracker.
Current Worldwide Status
At the time of writing, here’s what we know about the spread of 2019-nCoV:
- Over 17,000 cases reported worldwide—the majority of which are in China itself
- 362 deaths reported, all in China
- 27 countries and territories have been affected
- The city of Wuhan is currently under full quarantine
- The United States has reported 11 cases, including person-to-person transmission
Typically, coronaviruses like these aren’t transmittable to humans without some type of mutation that allows the virus to live on our system. However, when cross-species transmission occurs, the results can be disastrous.
Both the SARS outbreak of 2003 and the MERS outbreak in 2012 were thought to be caused by betacoronaviruses found in bats, and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believe that the source of Wuhan Coronavirus could also be bats.
The First Reported Cases
The exact origin of 2019-nCoV is still unknown, though researchers have traced many of the earliest reported cases to an animal market in Wuhan, China, sometime in late December 2019.
Unfortunately for China and the world at large, Wuhan is a major logistics hub in China with a population of more than 11 million, meaning that by the time researchers began identifying cases, many people had already travelled beyond the region. Once the magnitude of the outbreak came to light, many more cases have followed.
How it Spread
2019-nCoV is a respiratory virus, meaning that it’s highly contagious in human populations and is easily transmittable through contact or airborne exposure. As with many other similar outbreaks containment is the primary challenge —medical workers are continually exposed to the virus with few options for isolating affected patients.
The 2019-nCoV has several other characteristics supporting its spread. The incubation period for the disease is long, estimated to be around 10-14 days. This means that many people may be unknown carriers of the disease and spread it to others before they realize they’re sick.
There’s also the unfortunate timing of the outbreak to consider. The Chinese New Year in 2020 runs from January 25th to February 8th and is hailed as the largest human migration of the year (expected to produce 3 billion travel trips between late January and March). From a disease containment standpoint, this is an epidemiological nightmare, though the Chinese government has extended the holiday to help lower the amount of travel.
What Are the Symptoms?
The CDC offers this brief list of symptoms to watch out for:
- Shortness of breath
However, they note that reported cases have spanned from serious illness to mild sickness, so there’s certainly some variance in the intensity of symptoms across patients. In particular, those in close contact with travelers from Wuhan and the surrounding area should take extra care.