A new pathogen that is believed to have originated in a seafood and live animal market in Wuhan, China, late in December has spread to at least 12 countries including Canada, the U.S., France and Singapore.
The Wuhan virus is a new form of coronavirus — a term for a group of viruses that have crown-like spikes on them and cause illnesses as benign as the common cold and as severe as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome).
What is it?
This strain of coronavirus has infected more than 1,975 people globally and killed at least 56. In some people, it causes symptoms similar to the common cold — such as coughing and fever — but in more severe cases it gives patients pneumonia-like symptoms.
Coronaviruses often spread between animals, but some make the jump from animal to human when they mutate, which appears to be the case here, according to Steven Hoffman, a professor of global health, law and political science at York University.
Initially, the disease wasn’t readily transmitted from person to person and all patients had visited the market believed to be the source of the outbreak. But the virus appears to have mutated, giving it the ability to transmit more easily between people and having infected some health-care workers. However, all transmissions are still first and secondary. That means so far, people who got sick either went to the market or were in contact with someone who was at the market, which has been closed for disinfection since Jan. 1. No one has gotten it from third or fourth degree transmission, Hoffman said.
Viruses and other pathogens evolving is one of the challenges when it comes to managing and curing them, but it happens often.
“The important thing to note is this isn’t abnormal … this kind of development is exactly what the world has been preparing for because we know that these things are going to happen,” Hoffman added.
Symptoms of the disease include coughing, fever, difficulty...