Coronaviruses (CoV) are a family of zoonotic viruses (transmitted between animals and humans) which cause illnesses including common cold and other severe diseases. The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) was transmitted from dromedary camels to humans while the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) was a coronavirus transmitted from civet cats to humans. The novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain of CoV which has previously not been identified in humans. The animal origin of the 2019-nCoV has been suggested to be snakes (According to Ji et al 2019 PMID: 31967321). However, the study methods in this paper is being debated by scientists.
2019-nCoV linked illness was first reported in December, 2019, in Wuhan City, the Capital of Hubei Province, Central China.
Signs and symptoms of 2019-nCoV: Common signs include fever, cough, shortness of breath and respiratory difficulties. In severe cases, the infection may lead to pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and possibly death.
2019-nCoV updates from Researchers: Researchers at Wuhan Institute of Virology, led by Virologist Zheng Li-Shi isolated and cultured the virus and discovered that 2019-nCoV uses the same molecular receptor, ACE2 as the SARS-CoV (As seen in Zhou et al, 2020 https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.01.22.914952v2). Scientists at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne, Australia were able to culture the virus and grow it for the first time in a lab outside China. This progress announced on January 29th is a promising update, as it will facilitate further testing and development of vaccines. In addition, labs in France, Germany and Hong Kong are also isolating and preparing samples of the virus (from local patients). These labs will eventually share the virus samples with labs around the world, hence labs across the globe will be able to begin/continue researching the 2019-nCoV.
Current updates from public health agencies: As at 2nd February, 2020, the WHO reports that 14,557 2019-nCoV cases have been confimed globally, with 2604 new cases. In China, there are 14411 confirmed cases (2590 new), 2110 severe cases (315 new) and 304 deaths (45 new). Outside China, there are 146 confirmed cases in 23 countries (See global distribution maps below), and 1 confirmed death outside China (in the Phillipines). According to WHO Risk assessment, China is currently at very high risk, with the regional and global risks being high. Specifically in Canada, there are 4 confirmed 2019-nCoV cases.
Standard Recommendations to prevent spread of infection: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), regular hand washing and cleaning using alcohol-based hand run or soap and water, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, cooking meat and eggs thoroughly, as well as avoiding close contact with people demonstrating respiratory symptoms (such as coughing and sneezing). More recommendations for people travelling, or in contact with people who have recently traveled apply and can be found on the WHO emergency website https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public and the CDC website