The World Health Organisation confirmed on Wednesday that Chinese authorities believe a new coronavirus — from the family that produced SARS and MERS — may be the cause of mysterious pneumonia cases in the city of Wuhan.
The Chinese government has not yet publicly stated that a coronavirus is the cause of the illness, which has infected at least 59 people. But the Wall Street Journal reported that was the case earlier Wednesday, citing unnamed sources.
“Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that range from the common cold to SARS. Some cause less-severe disease, some more severe. Some transmit easily from person to person, while others don’t,” the WHO statement said.
Experts said it will now be important for China to share more information, including enough of a genetic sequence so that health facilities outside of China know what to look for when faced with a pneumonia case with a recent travel history to Wuhan.
It will also be critical to figure out how the virus transmitted to people. The outbreak has been linked to a large seafood market that also sells live exotic animals for consumption. The market was closed and decontaminated on Jan 1.
“Understanding the reservoir is critical for eliminating that whole aspect of animal-to-human jump,” Matthew Frieman, a coronavirus expert at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Identifying the reservoir of the virus will also require tracing the animals suspected of being infected back to their suppliers so that it can be determined whether other markets might also have received infected animals.
In its most recent update, the Wuhan Municipal Health Authority said there had been 59 cases, seven of which were in critical condition. The statement said the first known case began showing signs of illness on Dec. 12 and the last case of illness onset was Dec. 29.
Source : Statnews