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More than 100,000 people have been infected with a new coronavirus that has spread widely from its origin in China over the past few months. More than 3,000 have already died. Our comprehensive guide for understanding and navigating this global public health threat is below.
You should be concerned and take this seriously. But you should not panic.
This is the mantra public health experts have adopted since the epidemic mushroomed in January—and it’s about as comforting as it is easy to accomplish. But it’s important that we all try.
This new coronavirus—dubbed SARS-CoV-2—is unquestionably dangerous. It causes a disease called COVID-19, which can be deadly, particularly for older people and those with underlying health conditions. While the death rate among infected people is unclear, even some current low estimates are seven-fold higher than the estimate for seasonal influenza.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that get their name from the halo of spiked proteins that adorn their outer surface, which resemble a crown (corona) under a microscope. As a family, they infect a wide range of animals, including humans.
SARS-CoV-2 is related to coronaviruses in bats, but its intermediate animal host and route to humans are not yet clear. There has been plenty of speculation that the intermediate host could be pangolins, but that is not confirmed [nature.com].
How did it start infecting people?
While the identity of SARS-CoV-2’s intermediate host remains unknown, researchers suspect the mystery animal was present in a live animal market in Wuhan, China—the capital city of China’s central Hubei Province and the epicenter of the outbreak. The market, which was later described in Chinese state media reports as “filthy and messy,” sold a wide range of seafood and live animals, some wild. Many of the initial SARS-CoV-2 infections were linked to the market; in fact, many early cases were in people who worked there.
That said, a report in The Lancet [thelancet.com] describing 41 early cases in the outbreak indicates that the earliest identified person sickened with SARS-CoV-2 had no links to the market. As Ars has reported before [arstechnica.com], the case was in a man whose infection began causing symptoms on December 1, 2019. None of the man’s family became ill, and he had no ties to any of the other cases in the outbreak.
In people, SARS-CoV-2 causes a disease dubbed COVID-19 [twitter.com] by the World Health Organization (WHO). As the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points out, the ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease [cdc.gov].
Most people infected will have a mild illness and recover completely in two weeks.
researchers reported that about 81 percent of cases were considered mild [chinacdc.cn]
On average, it takes five to six days from the day you are infected with SARS-CoV-2 until you develop symptoms of COVID-19. This pre-symptomatic period—also known as "incubation"—can range from one to 14 days.
From there, those with mild disease tend to recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe cases can take three to six weeks to recover, according to WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who goes by Dr. Tedros.
So far, some preliminary population screening for COVID-19 infections has been done in China, specifically in Guangdong province. Screening of 320,000 people who went to a fever clinic suggested that we may not be missing a vast number of mild cases. This in turn suggests that the CFRs we are calculating now are not wildly higher than they should be. However, experts still suspect that many mild cases are going unreported, and many still anticipate that the true CFR will be lower than what we are calculating now.
COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2 - CoronaVirus) Roundup [soylentnews.org] (Feb. 29)
Roundup of Stories about the SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus and COVID-19 Disease [soylentnews.org] (Feb. 26)
Coronavirus Roundup (Feb. 17) [soylentnews.org]
Coronavirus Roundup [soylentnews.org] (Feb. 10)
Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Roundup [soylentnews.org] (Feb.7)
China Confirms Human-To-Human Transmission of New Coronavirus; CDC Confirms First US Case [soylentnews.org] (Jan. 21)
China Reports 3rd Death, Nearly 140 New Cases of Coronavirus [soylentnews.org] (Jan. 19)