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Coronavirus panic leaves London’s Chinatown almost empty

Chinatown was left eerily deserted last night, in stark contrast to the flock of revelers that descended on London‘s infamous haunt last year, as panic over the coronavirus outbreak intensified.

It comes as the ninth case of the disease, also called SARS-CoV-2, was diagnosed in Britain, marking the first case in the capital.

The victim, a woman, was diagnosed on Wednesday is currently being treated for the illness at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital in south London.

She is thought to have flown into the UK from China, with officials confirming she caught the virus in China.

It yesterday emerged that more than 750 British patients were tested for the disease, that originated in Wuhan, China, in just one day while 2,512 people have been tested in the country since last month.

None of the 763 people tested had the disease but the extraordinary figure – the highest in a day so far – reflects the growing public anxiety.

Further concerns were raised yesterday after NHS officials admitted that the latest patient with the virus had turned up to a busy A&E unit in an Uber taxi.

China Town was left eerily deserted last night (pictured), in stark contrast to the flock of revelers that descended on London's infamous haunt last year, as panic over the coronavirus outbreak intensified

China Town was left eerily deserted last night (pictured), in stark contrast to the flock of revelers that descended on London's infamous haunt last year, as panic over the coronavirus outbreak intensified

China Town was left eerily deserted last night (pictured), in stark contrast to the flock of revelers that descended on London’s infamous haunt last year, as panic over the coronavirus outbreak intensified

A quarter of people surveyed said they would avoid shaking hands with others, and one in five said they would avoid travelling by public transport all together, the poll by Ipsos MORI found. Pictured: A deserted restaurant in China Town. There is no suggestion that restaurant staff are infected by the virus

A quarter of people surveyed said they would avoid shaking hands with others, and one in five said they would avoid travelling by public transport all together, the poll by Ipsos MORI found. Pictured: A deserted restaurant in China Town. There is no suggestion that restaurant staff are infected by the virus

A quarter of people surveyed said they would avoid shaking hands with others, and one in five said they would avoid travelling by public transport all together, the poll by Ipsos MORI found. Pictured: A deserted restaurant in China Town. There is no suggestion that restaurant staff are infected by the virus

Three in ten Britons said they would avoid large gatherings of people or travelling on planes to get to go on holiday while two-thirds said they would consider staying away from infected countries or areas. Pictured: A nearly deserted restaurant in China Town. There is no suggestion that restaurant staff are infected by the virus

Three in ten Britons said they would avoid large gatherings of people or travelling on planes to get to go on holiday while two-thirds said they would consider staying away from infected countries or areas. Pictured: A nearly deserted restaurant in China Town. There is no suggestion that restaurant staff are infected by the virus

Three in ten Britons said they would avoid large gatherings of people or travelling on planes to get to go on holiday while two-thirds said they would consider staying away from infected countries or areas. Pictured: A nearly deserted restaurant in China Town. There is no suggestion that restaurant staff are infected by the virus

Many have slammed the response to outbreak fears as racist. Parents have claimed Chinese children are being ostracised by their friends in British schools, with some refusing to play with them. Pictured: A China Town restaurant

Many have slammed the response to outbreak fears as racist. Parents have claimed Chinese children are being ostracised by their friends in British schools, with some refusing to play with them. Pictured: A China Town restaurant

Many have slammed the response to outbreak fears as racist. Parents have claimed Chinese children are being ostracised by their friends in British schools, with some refusing to play with them. Pictured: A China Town restaurant

Mothers have told the BBC that people are being 'racist' against youngsters of Chinese origin because of an 'unfair' perception that the outbreak is a Chinese virus. Pictured: A nearly deserted China Town

Mothers have told the BBC that people are being 'racist' against youngsters of Chinese origin because of an 'unfair' perception that the outbreak is a Chinese virus. Pictured: A nearly deserted China Town

Mothers have told the BBC that people are being ‘racist’ against youngsters of Chinese origin because of an ‘unfair’ perception that the outbreak is a Chinese virus. Pictured: A nearly deserted China Town

More than 60,000 infections have now been confirmed and over 1,300 people have died. Almost all the cases and deaths remain in China

A 54-year-old Taiwanese market stall holder in Aberystwyth, West Wales, has said other stallholders tried to turf her out and told her to 'go home'. Pictured: A nearly deserted restaurant in China Town. There is no suggestion that restaurant staff are infected by the virus

A 54-year-old Taiwanese market stall holder in Aberystwyth, West Wales, has said other stallholders tried to turf her out and told her to 'go home'. Pictured: A nearly deserted restaurant in China Town. There is no suggestion that restaurant staff are infected by the virus

A 54-year-old Taiwanese market stall holder in Aberystwyth, West Wales, has said other stallholders tried to turf her out and told her to ‘go home’. Pictured: A nearly deserted restaurant in China Town. There is no suggestion that restaurant staff are infected by the virus

Wales market stall-holder Su Chu Lu had been to Taiwan – an island off the coast of China – to visit her family, but when she came back neighbours had turned on her. Pictured: A nearly deserted China Town restaurant. There is no suggestion that restaurant staff are infected by the virus

Wales market stall-holder Su Chu Lu had been to Taiwan – an island off the coast of China – to visit her family, but when she came back neighbours had turned on her. Pictured: A nearly deserted China Town restaurant. There is no suggestion that restaurant staff are infected by the virus

Wales market stall-holder Su Chu Lu had been to Taiwan – an island off the coast of China – to visit her family, but when she came back neighbours had turned on her. Pictured: A nearly deserted China Town restaurant. There is no suggestion that restaurant staff are infected by the virus

Ms Lu said a group of them had held a meeting and decided to try and ban her from returning to her stall over fears she would 'put them all at risk' of catching the virus. Pictured: Nearly deserted streets in London's China Town

Ms Lu said a group of them had held a meeting and decided to try and ban her from returning to her stall over fears she would 'put them all at risk' of catching the virus. Pictured: Nearly deserted streets in London's China Town

Ms Lu said a group of them had held a meeting and decided to try and ban her from returning to her stall over fears she would ‘put them all at risk’ of catching the virus. Pictured: Nearly deserted streets in London’s China Town

The latest case comes as all 83 people being held in quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital in the Wirral were declared free of the virus and have been able to leave their accommodation. Pictured: A deserted restaurant in London's China Town. There is no suggestion that restaurant staff are infected by the virus

The latest case comes as all 83 people being held in quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital in the Wirral were declared free of the virus and have been able to leave their accommodation. Pictured: A deserted restaurant in London's China Town. There is no suggestion that restaurant staff are infected by the virus

The latest case comes as all 83 people being held in quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital in the Wirral were declared free of the virus and have been able to leave their accommodation. Pictured: A deserted restaurant in London’s China Town. There is no suggestion that restaurant staff are infected by the virus

The disease has killed 1,383 globally while the number of cases has exceeded 64,000. Pictured: The popular haunt had significantly fewer people this year than it did last year

The disease has killed 1,383 globally while the number of cases has exceeded 64,000. Pictured: The popular haunt had significantly fewer people this year than it did last year

 The disease has killed 1,383 globally while the number of cases has exceeded 64,000. Pictured: The popular haunt had significantly fewer people this year than it did last year

The disease has killed 1,383 globally while the number of cases has exceeded 64,000.

Latest surveys found that 14 per cent of Britons said they would avoid contact with people of Chinese origin or appearance due to coronavirus fears.

A quarter said they would avoid shaking hands with others, and one in five said they would avoid travelling by public transport all together, the poll by Ipsos MORI found.

Three in ten said they would avoid large gatherings of people or travelling on planes to get to go on holiday while two-thirds said they would consider staying away from infected countries or areas. 

Many have slammed the response to outbreak fears as racist.

Parents have claimed Chinese children are being ostracised by their friends in British schools, with some refusing to play with them.

Mothers have told the BBC that people are being ‘racist’ against the youngsters because of an ‘unfair’ perception that the outbreak is a Chinese virus.

Meanwhile blogger Jex Wang has claimed people on public transport are ‘moving away’ from those of East Asian origin, leaving her ‘anxious’ to leave the house.

And a 54-year-old Taiwanese market stall holder in Aberystwyth, West Wales, has said other stallholders tried to turf her out and told her to ‘go home’.

Wales market stall-holder Su Chu Lu had been to Taiwan – an island off the coast of China – to visit her family, but when she came back neighbours had turned on her.

By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge. Pictured: A man wearing a protective face mask in China Town

By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge. Pictured: A man wearing a protective face mask in China Town

By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge. Pictured: A man wearing a protective face mask in China Town

The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000. Pictured: A nearly empty restaurant in China Town. There is no suggestion that restaurant staff are infected by the virus

The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000. Pictured: A nearly empty restaurant in China Town. There is no suggestion that restaurant staff are infected by the virus

The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000. Pictured: A nearly empty restaurant in China Town. There is no suggestion that restaurant staff are infected by the virus

Just a week after that, there had been more than 800 confirmed cases and those same scientists estimated that some 4,000 – possibly 9,700 – were infected in Wuhan alone. By that point, 26 people had died. Pictured: An almost empty restaurant in China Town. There is no suggestion that restaurant staff are infected by the virus

Just a week after that, there had been more than 800 confirmed cases and those same scientists estimated that some 4,000 – possibly 9,700 – were infected in Wuhan alone. By that point, 26 people had died. Pictured: An almost empty restaurant in China Town. There is no suggestion that restaurant staff are infected by the virus

Just a week after that, there had been more than 800 confirmed cases and those same scientists estimated that some 4,000 – possibly 9,700 – were infected in Wuhan alone. By that point, 26 people had died. Pictured: An almost empty restaurant in China Town. There is no suggestion that restaurant staff are infected by the virus

The ninth confirmed case in Britain is thought to have flown into the UK from China, with officials confirming she caught the virus in China. Pictured: A nearly deserted restaurant in China Town. There is no suggestion that restaurant staff are infected by the virus

The ninth confirmed case in Britain is thought to have flown into the UK from China, with officials confirming she caught the virus in China. Pictured: A nearly deserted restaurant in China Town. There is no suggestion that restaurant staff are infected by the virus

The ninth confirmed case in Britain is thought to have flown into the UK from China, with officials confirming she caught the virus in China. Pictured: A nearly deserted restaurant in China Town. There is no suggestion that restaurant staff are infected by the virus

None of the 763 people tested in one day  had the disease but the extraordinary figure – the highest in a day so far – reflects the growing public anxiety. Pictured: A nearly deserted restaurant in China Town. There is no suggestion that restaurant staff are infected by the virus

None of the 763 people tested in one day  had the disease but the extraordinary figure – the highest in a day so far – reflects the growing public anxiety. Pictured: A nearly deserted restaurant in China Town. There is no suggestion that restaurant staff are infected by the virus

None of the 763 people tested in one day  had the disease but the extraordinary figure – the highest in a day so far – reflects the growing public anxiety. Pictured: A nearly deserted restaurant in China Town. There is no suggestion that restaurant staff are infected by the virus

February 13 saw a sharp spike in the number of coronavirus cases because doctors in China changed the way they are diagnosing the illness

February 13 saw a sharp spike in the number of coronavirus cases because doctors in China changed the way they are diagnosing the illness

February 13 saw a sharp spike in the number of coronavirus cases because doctors in China changed the way they are diagnosing the illness

A total of 1,369 people have now died in the outbreak

A total of 1,369 people have now died in the outbreak

A total of 1,369 people have now died in the outbreak

CORONAVIRUS: WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR

What is this virus?

The virus has been identified as a new type of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of pathogens, most of which cause mild lung infections such as the common cold.

But coronaviruses can also be deadly. SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, is caused by a coronavirus and killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in the early 2000s.

Can the Wuhan coronavirus kill?

Yes – 1,383 people have so far died after testing positive for the virus. 

What are the symptoms?

Some people who catch the Wuhan coronavirus may not have any symptoms at all, or only very mild ones like a sore throat or a headache.

Others may suffer from a fever, cough or trouble breathing. 

And a small proportion of patients will go on to develop severe infection which can damage the lungs or cause pneumonia, a life-threatening condition which causes swelling and fluid build-up in the lungs.

How is it detected?

The virus’s genetic sequencing was released by scientists in China and countries around the world have used this to create lab tests, which must be carried out to confirm an infection.

Delays to these tests, to test results and to people getting to hospitals in China, mean the number of confirmed cases is expected to be just a fraction of the true scale of the outbreak.  

How did it start and spread?

The first cases identified were among people connected to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan.

Cases have since been identified around China and are known to have spread from person to person.

What are countries doing to prevent the spread?

Countries all over the world have banned foreign travellers from crossing their borders if they have been to China within the past two weeks. Many airlines have cancelled or drastically reduced flights to and from mainland China.

Is it similar to anything we’ve ever seen before?

Experts have compared it to the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The epidemic started in southern China and killed more than 700 people in mainland China, Hong Kong and elsewhere.

SCROLL DOWN TO SEE MAILONLINE’S FULL Q&A ON THE CORONAVIRUS 

She said a group of them had held a meeting and decided to try and ban her from returning to her stall over fears she would ‘put them all at risk’ of catching the virus.

Ms Lu became upset and refused to leave unless the authorities told her to. Other traders sided with her and even put up posters saying she should be allowed to stay.

Another insisted it wasn’t racist and they would have said the same if she’d been somewhere else where there was a disease outbreak.

The first human cases of the coronavirus were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started seeing infections on December 31.

By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.

The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000.

Just a week after that, there had been more than 800 confirmed cases and those same scientists estimated that some 4,000 – possibly 9,700 – were infected in Wuhan alone. By that point, 26 people had died.

Since that point, the disease spread to multiple countries including Russia, India, Singapore and Italy.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said earlier this week that the coronavirus outbreak is a ‘serious and imminent’ threat to the British public.

The latest case comes as all 83 people being held in quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital in the Wirral were declared free of the virus and have been able to leave their accommodation.

The detainees – who were being kept in a block of apartments – have all been tested and found not to have the virus.

Two British prisoners – including a ‘drug dealer’ who was sent home from Thailand – were found not to have coronavirus.

Mark Rumble, 31, from Oxfordshire, was sent to HMP Bullingdon, close to Bicester, on January 27 and faces a series of charges of conspiracy to supply class A and B drugs. He is due in court later this month and is expected to deny the charges.

Thailand’s ministry claimed Mr Rumble had no symptoms of the never-before-seen virus when he was tested before flying back to the UK. 

And it said he passed all of the standard health checks prisoners go through before they are extradited, claiming he wouldn’t have been allowed to travel had he failed.

Officials in Thailand, the first country outside of China to record a case on January 13, claim there have been no cases among the 300,000 prisoners in the country. 

It also comes as the Brighton coronavirus ‘super-spreader’ revealed he fears being turned into a ‘national scapegoat’ after accidentally infecting 11 other Britons with the illness.

It yesterday emerged that more than 750 British patients were tested for the disease, that originated in Wuhan, China, in one day while 2,512 people have been tested in the country since last month. Pictured: China Town had many more visitors in November last year

It yesterday emerged that more than 750 British patients were tested for the disease, that originated in Wuhan, China, in one day while 2,512 people have been tested in the country since last month. Pictured: China Town had many more visitors in November last year

It yesterday emerged that more than 750 British patients were tested for the disease, that originated in Wuhan, China, in one day while 2,512 people have been tested in the country since last month. Pictured: China Town had many more visitors in November last year

It comes as the ninth case of the disease, also called SARS-CoV-2, was diagnosed in Britain, making the first case in the capital. Pictured: China Town was a much busier scene last year

It comes as the ninth case of the disease, also called SARS-CoV-2, was diagnosed in Britain, making the first case in the capital. Pictured: China Town was a much busier scene last year

It comes as the ninth case of the disease, also called SARS-CoV-2, was diagnosed in Britain, making the first case in the capital. Pictured: China Town was a much busier scene last year

Meanwhile blogger Jex Wang has claimed people on public transport are 'moving away' from those of East Asian origin, leaving her 'anxious' to leave the house. Pictured: China Town was significantly busier in November last year

Meanwhile blogger Jex Wang has claimed people on public transport are 'moving away' from those of East Asian origin, leaving her 'anxious' to leave the house. Pictured: China Town was significantly busier in November last year

Meanwhile blogger Jex Wang has claimed people on public transport are ‘moving away’ from those of East Asian origin, leaving her ‘anxious’ to leave the house. Pictured: China Town was significantly busier in November last year

The first human cases of the coronavirus were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started seeing infections on December 31. Pictured: China Town had significantly more visitors last year

The first human cases of the coronavirus were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started seeing infections on December 31. Pictured: China Town had significantly more visitors last year

The first human cases of the coronavirus were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started seeing infections on December 31. Pictured: China Town had significantly more visitors last year

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE DEADLY CORONAVIRUS IN CHINA?

Someone who is infected with the coronavirus can spread it with just a simple cough or a sneeze, scientists say.

More than 1,380 people with the virus are now confirmed to have died and more than 64,400 have been infected in at least 28 countries and regions. But experts predict the true number of people with the disease could be as high as 350,000 in Wuhan alone, as they warn it may kill as many as two in 100 cases.  Here’s what we know so far:

What is the coronavirus? 

A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. Viruses break into cells inside their host and use them to reproduce itself and disrupt the body’s normal functions. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word ‘corona’, which means crown, because they are encased by a spiked shell which resembles a royal crown.

The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It has been named SARS-CoV-2 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. The name stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2.

Experts say the bug, which has killed around one in 50 patients since the outbreak began in December, is a ‘sister’ of the SARS illness which hit China in 2002, so has been named after it.

The disease that the virus causes has been named COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019.

Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: ‘Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals. 

‘Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses). 

‘Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known.’ 

The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started publicly reporting infections on December 31.

By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.

The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000.

Just a week after that, there had been more than 800 confirmed cases and those same scientists estimated that some 4,000 – possibly 9,700 – were infected in Wuhan alone. By that point, 26 people had died. 

By January 27, more than 2,800 people were confirmed to have been infected, 81 had died, and estimates of the total number of cases ranged from 100,000 to 350,000 in Wuhan alone.

By January 29, the number of deaths had risen to 132 and cases were in excess of 6,000.  

By February 5, there were more than 24,000 cases and 492 deaths.

By February 11, this had risen to more than 43,000 cases and 1,000 deaths. 

A change in the way cases are confirmed on February 13 – doctors decided to start using lung scans as a formal diagnosis, as well as laboratory tests – caused a spike in the number of cases, to more than 60,000 and to 1,369 deaths. 

Where does the virus come from?

According to scientists, the virus has almost certainly come from bats. Coronaviruses in general tend to originate in animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to have originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.

The first cases of COVID-19 came from people visiting or working in a live animal market in the city, which has since been closed down for investigation.

Although the market is officially a seafood market, other dead and living animals were being sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat. 

A study by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, published in February 2020 in the scientific journal Nature, found that the genetic make-up virus samples found in patients in China is 96 per cent similar to a coronavirus they found in bats.

However, there were not many bats at the market so scientists say it was likely there was an animal which acted as a middle-man, contracting it from a bat before then transmitting it to a human. It has not yet been confirmed what type of animal this was.

Dr Michael Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, was not involved with the research but said: ‘The discovery definitely places the origin of nCoV in bats in China.

‘We still do not know whether another species served as an intermediate host to amplify the virus, and possibly even to bring it to the market, nor what species that host might have been.’  

So far the fatalities are quite low. Why are health experts so worried about it? 

Experts say the international community is concerned about the virus because so little is known about it and it appears to be spreading quickly.

It is similar to SARS, which infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in an outbreak in Asia in 2003, in that it is a type of coronavirus which infects humans’ lungs.  

Another reason for concern is that nobody has any immunity to the virus because they’ve never encountered it before. This means it may be able to cause more damage than viruses we come across often, like the flu or common cold.

Speaking at a briefing in January, Oxford University professor, Dr Peter Horby, said: ‘Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than viruses which circulate all the time because we have no immunity to them.

‘Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we’re talking about a virus where we don’t understand fully the severity spectrum but it’s possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent.’

If the death rate is truly two per cent, that means two out of every 100 patients who get it will die. 

‘My feeling is it’s lower,’ Dr Horby added. ‘We’re probably missing this iceberg of milder cases. But that’s the current circumstance we’re in.

‘Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 so it is a significant concern globally.’

How does the virus spread?

The illness can spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection. And it may also spread even before someone has symptoms.

It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky. 

Originally, people were thought to be catching it from a live animal market in Wuhan city. But cases soon began to emerge in people who had never been there, which forced medics to realise it was spreading from person to person.

There is now evidence that it can spread third hand – to someone from a person who caught it from another person.

What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?

Once someone has caught the COVID-19 virus it may take between two and 14 days, or even longer, for them to show any symptoms – but they may still be contagious during this time.

If and when they do become ill, typical signs include a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and a fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients – at least 97 per cent, based on available data – will recover from these without any issues or medical help.

In a small group of patients, who seem mainly to be the elderly or those with long-term illnesses, it can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the insides of the lungs swell up and fill with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if left untreated, can be fatal and suffocate people. 

What have genetic tests revealed about the virus? 

Scientists in China have recorded the genetic sequences of around 19 strains of the virus and released them to experts working around the world. 

This allows others to study them, develop tests and potentially look into treating the illness they cause.   

Examinations have revealed the coronavirus did not change much – changing is known as mutating – much during the early stages of its spread.

However, the director-general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said the virus was mutating and adapting as it spread through people.

This means efforts to study the virus and to potentially control it may be made extra difficult because the virus might look different every time scientists analyse it.   

More study may be able to reveal whether the virus first infected a small number of people then change and spread from them, or whether there were various versions of the virus coming from animals which have developed separately.

How dangerous is the virus?  

The virus has so far killed 1,383 people out of a total of at least 64,441 officially confirmed cases – a death rate of around two per cent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish Flu outbreak which, in 1918, went on to kill around 50million people.

However, experts say the true number of patients is likely considerably higher and therefore the death rate considerably lower. Imperial College London researchers estimate that there were 4,000 (up to 9,700) cases in Wuhan city alone up to January 18 – officially there were only 444 there to that date. If cases are in fact 100 times more common than the official figures, the virus may be far less dangerous than currently believed, but also far more widespread. 

Experts say it is likely only the most seriously ill patients are seeking help and are therefore recorded – the vast majority will have only mild, cold-like symptoms. For those whose conditions do become more severe, there is a risk of developing pneumonia which can destroy the lungs and kill you.  

Can the virus be cured? 

The COVID-19 virus cannot currently be cured and it is proving difficult to contain.

Antibiotics do not work against viruses, so they are out of the question. Antiviral drugs can work, but the process of understanding a virus then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.

No vaccine exists for the coronavirus yet and it’s not likely one will be developed in time to be of any use in this outbreak, for similar reasons to the above.

The National Institutes of Health in the US, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this may take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.

Currently, governments and health authorities are working to contain the virus and to care for patients who are sick and stop them infecting other people.

People who catch the illness are being quarantined in hospitals, where their symptoms can be treated and they will be away from the uninfected public.

And airports around the world are putting in place screening measures such as having doctors on-site, taking people’s temperatures to check for fevers and using thermal screening to spot those who might be ill (infection causes a raised temperature).

However, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so there is only a small likelihood that patients will be spotted up in an airport.

Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?   

The outbreak is an epidemic, which is when a disease takes hold of one community such as a country or region. 

Although it has spread to dozens of countries, the outbreak is not yet classed as a pandemic, which is defined by the World Health Organization as the ‘worldwide spread of a new disease’.

The head of WHO’s global infectious hazard preparedness, Dr Sylvie Briand, said: ‘Currently we are not in a pandemic. We are at the phase where it is an epidemic with multiple foci, and we try to extinguish the transmission in each of these foci,’ the Guardian reported.

She said that most cases outside of Hubei had been ‘spillover’ from the epicentre, so the disease wasn’t actually spreading actively around the world.

Source: Daily Mail – Articles

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