Get the facts straight: Coronavirus

Everything to know about the new outbreak


Rachel Oliver

New coronavirus has emerged in China, killing hundreds, infecting thousands and putting millions under lockdown.

by Rachel Oliver, Editor in Chief

What is the coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are found in both humans and animals. There are seven known types of coronaviruses that infect humans, however, there are also coronaviruses that originate in animals that evolve to infect humans, such as SARS and MERS, which both have had worldwide outbreaks, as well as the new coronavirus.

Not much is known about the new no-name coronavirus, commonly referred to as the Wuhan coronavirus, since its debut. The symptoms have been identified to be a fever and shortness of breath. In addition, those with weaker immune systems, such as infants, elderly and those with auto-immune disorders are at an increased chance to contract respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia or bronchitis, as a result of the virus. Much about the transmission is still unknown, however, it is known to spread person-to-person even before symptoms are shown.

So far, there have been over 4,610 identified cases and a death toll of at least 131 people in China alone. Seventy cases have also been identified in 17 other countries, such as the U.S., France, Japan, Korea and Australia. In the U.S. there have been five confirmed cases in Illinois, Washington, Arizona, California and Oregon. The first case was found in Washington state, and the second was found in Chicago.

How did it start?

The Wuhan coronavirus is thought to have started in a wet market in Wuhan, China. A wet market is a type of meat market where animals are sold either dead or alive. These markets are rarely regulated which means that there is often illegal animal trade. A major risk of this is that it increases the chances of new diseases being introduced to humans. In addition to this, animals are often skinned in wet markets in very close proximity to the customers, sometimes releasing viruses into the air and making it very easy for people to get sick. Because the new coronavirus probably originated in a wet market, Wuhan banned the trade of live animals in wet markets on Jan. 22.

What’s being done?

As of now, 60 million people in China are on either partial or full lockdown. In the city of Wuhan alone 11 million people are on lockdown. The Wuhan government has since shut down all businesses, except for gas stations, pharmacies and supermarkets until Feb. 9. In addition, schools are also suspended until Feb. 17.

Another problem Wuhan faces is hospitals overflowing, as well as many of the medical staff being infected. To help aid this, 1,600 medical professionals have been sent to the city on Sunday and Monday. In addition, the Chinese government is allocating $8.7 billion for public health services and epidemic prevention.

The CDC in the U.S. is also currently working to create coronavirus-detection kits that will be shared with other labs in the U.S.

How does this affect me?

The coronavirus has had a worldwide impact on travel. The CDC advises against any nonessential travel to China and expects more cases to be identified in the United States, as well as in other countries. To prevent getting sick, the CDC suggests washing one’s hands often, avoid touching one’s face with unwashed hands and avoiding contact with those who are sick.