A preliminary investigation into viral pneumonia illnesses sickening dozens of people in and around China has identified the possible cause as a new type of coronavirus (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File)
ON FRIDAY, The Indian Express published a report, sourced from The New York Times, about a new virus identified by Chinese researchers. They said it was responsible for a new pneumonia-like illness that had swept Wuhan since last month, leaving 59 ill and created panic. The researchers described the infectious agent as a “coronavirus”, identified in a hospitalised person with pneumonia in Wuhan.
Coronaviruses are a specific family of viruses, with some of them causing less-severe damage, such as the common cold, and others causing respiratory and intestinal diseases. A coronavirus has many “regularly arranged” protrusions on its surface, because of which the entire virus particle looks like an emperor’s crown, hence the name “coronavirus”. Apart from human beings, coronaviruses can affect mammals including pigs, cattle, cats, dogs, martens, camels, hedgehogs and some birds.So far, there are four known disease-causing coronaviruses, among which the best known are the SARS corona virus and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus, both of which can cause severe respiratory diseases.
In the newly identified coronavirus, a direct link with the disease has not been established yet. Previously, there was speculation that the mystery illness was related to the SARS epidemic in China in the latter half of 2002 that killed roughly 350 people. Now, the new coronavirus has been detected in over 15 cases so far. No deaths have been reported, nor has any case been reported of human-to-human transmission.
As per state-owned CCTV, the new coronavirus is different from human coronaviruses already known. WHO said in a statement that further investigations are required to determine the source, modes of transmission and extent of infection caused by the new virus.