On Dec. 31, 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) country office in China was informed of 27 patients with pneumonia of unclear cause in Wuhan — a metropolis with 19 million inhabitants in Hubei province.
The Good News<p>Eight patients are currently considered cured and have reportedly left the hospital.</p><p>Having identified the virus, experts are one step further in their search for what is triggering the mysterious <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/unknown-lung-disease-in-china/a-51902586" target="_blank">lung disease</a>.</p><p>The pathogen's gene sequence has been deciphered, according to the head of the team of Chinese experts, Xu Jianguo.</p><p>He said the cause is a new type of coronavirus found in the blood and saliva of 15 patients. An investigation into what brought about the outbreak will continue. </p><p>Gauden Galea, a WHO representative in China, also confirmed the discovery of the new strain of the coronavirus <a href="https://www.who.int/china/news/detail/09-01-2020-who-statement-regarding-cluster-of-pneumonia-cases-in-wuhan-china" target="_blank">in a statement</a>.</p><p>According to the WHO, the quick preliminary identification of the novel virus is a notable achievement and demonstrates China's increased capacity to manage new outbreaks.</p>
What are coronaviruses?<p>Coronaviruses were first found in humans in the 1960s. The name is derived from their appearance under the microscope: The peplomers, the outwardly protruding protein structures of the virus envelope, are arranged in the form of a crown (from Latin: <em>corona</em>).</p><p>Coronaviruses are common and infections are often harmless with patients developing only flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cough and shortness of breath. Gastrointestinal complaints, especially diarrhea, can also occur. The incubation time for a coronavirus can vary from a few days to two weeks. </p>
How is the virus transmitted?<p>Zoonoses can be transmitted through direct contact between animals and humans as well as — like with many germs — simply through the air, such as by coughing or sneezing.</p><p>But there are many other ways of infection, for example through food or vectors. A mosquito, tick or other insect can transport a pathogen from the host to another organism without becoming ill itself. </p><p>In addition, zoonoses can also be transmitted via food, for example when eating meat or animal products. If these are not sufficiently heated or if they were prepared under unhygienic conditions, they also represent a source of infection.</p>
Lunar New Year: Be safe<p>Compared to the major instances of SARS and MERS, the current coronavirus outbreak is small, but experts said it should not be underestimated.</p><p>China is, therefore, exercising caution regarding the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations in late January. Millions of people travel in buses, trains and airplanes to celebrate the holiday.</p><p>Wang Yang, the Chinese Transport Ministry's chief engineer, said authorities will step up efforts to prevent the pneumonia outbreak from spreading further during the holiday period, including ensuring proper disinfection in major public transportation hubs like airport and train stations.</p><p>Other Asian countries also stepped up precautions on entry, especially for travelers from Wuhan, and introduced fever controls to prevent the feared spread of the virus. To date, there are 16 suspected cases in Hong Kong, and a possible patient has been reported in Singapore. Not in all of the cases have a direct connection to Wuhan.</p>
How to protect yourself?<p>The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) <a href="https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/watch/pneumonia-china" target="_blank">released a statement warning</a> travelers to Wuhan to avoid animal markets and contact with animals or uncooked meat. People in the area should also avoid the sick and wash their hands frequently with soap and water.</p><p>Those who have been to Wuhan and feel ill should seek medical help immediately and avoid contact with others, the report said.</p><p>Before the doctor is consulted, the practice or clinic should be informed about the travel history and symptoms.</p><p>The WHO did not issue a specific travel warning.</p>
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