Wuhan Coronavirus: A Synopsis

by Helen Cunningham, Ph.D.

WHERE DOES “CORONAVIRUS” GET ITS NAME?

The coronavirus gets its name from the crown-like spikes on its surface, according to the CDC. (Corona is Latin for crown.) Including the newly identified form of the virus, there are a total of seven coronaviruses that can infect humans, the CDC says.

HAS THIS HAPPENED BEFORE?

Yes. This is the 3rd time in this century, that public health officials are battling a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). According to the blog Novel Infectious Diseases:

The first time was in 2003 when “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak was attributed to a coronavirus that originated in bats but was apparently passed from civets to humans in Guangdong Province in China. During that outbreak more than 7,500 people from 17 countries were infected with about 775 deaths blamed on SARS.”

The second time was in 2012 when “a novel coronavirus began infecting people on the Arabian Peninsula. The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) was eventually attributed to camels as an intermediate host passing on the MERS coronavirus to humans. Since 2012 more than 2500 people have been infected with more than 850 associated deaths.”

The current outbreak began in December 2019 when “a novel coronavirus began infecting people in Wuhan, Hubei province, in China. During the initial days of this outbreak, there was uncertainty about whether or not all of the human cases resulted from exposure to infected animals. However, the rapid growth in confirmed cases in China demonstrates that human-to- human transmission is now the main source of the spread of this disease. Since the 11th of January, the number of reported cases has risen 100-fold. “

The current number of people with the disease is around 2000 worldwide.

WHOM DOES IT AFFECT & HOW DOES IT AFFECT THEM?

The Lancet Medical Journal (January 2, 2020) reported “Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China”

  • By Jan 2, 2020, 41 admitted hospital patients had been identified as having laboratory-confirmed 2019-nCoVinfection.
  • Most of the infected patients were men (30 of 41).
  • Less than half had underlying diseases (13), including diabetes (8), hypertension (6), and cardiovascular disease (6).
  • Median age was 49 years.
  • 27 of 41 patients had been exposed to Huanan seafood market.
  • One family cluster was found.
  • Common symptoms at onset of illness were fever (40), cough (31), and muscle aches or fatigue (18).
  • Dyspnoea (difficulty breathing) developed in 22 patients (median time from illness onset to dyspnoea 8 days).
  • 26 of 41 patients had low white blood cell counts.
  • All 41 patients had pneumonia with abnormal findings on chest CT.
  • Complications included acute respiratory distress syndrome (12), acute cardiac injury (5) ,and secondary infection (4).
  • 13 patients were admitted to an ICU and 6 died.
  • The virus created cytokine storms in some of the worst-affected patients.
  • AUTHORS: Chaolin Huang*, Yeming Wang*, Xingwang Li*, Lili Ren*, Jianping Zhao*, Yi Hu*, Li Zhang, Guohui Fan, Jiuyang Xu, Xiaoying Gu, Zhenshun Cheng, Ting Yu, Jiaan Xia, Yuan Wei, Wenjuan Wu, Xuelei Xie, Wen Yin, Hui Li, Min Liu, Yan Xiao, Hong Gao, Li Guo, Jungang Xie, Guangfa Wang, Rongmeng Jiang, Zhancheng Gao, Qi Jin, Jianwei Wang†, Bin Cao†

WHAT IS A CYTOKINE STORM & WHY IS IT SO DEADLY?

A cytokine storm happens when the patient’s own immune system — which produces defensive proteins called “cytokines” — responds so strongly that it causes inflammation in the lungs. The patient’s lungs fill with fluid and the patient essentially ‘drowns’ in his or her own bodily fluids. Ironically this is more likely to happen to young healthy people with strong immune systems. It was the most devastating aspect of the 1918 flu epidemic that killed millions of people worldwide.

HOW FAST IS WUHAN SPREADING?

The growth rate is proportional to the current number of existing cases, because each person who has it gives it to a certain number of others. The more infectious the disease, the higher the “reproduction rate”. Currently the Wuhan coronavirus is believed to have a reproduction rate of around 4. That is 4 new cases for every existing case. The result is you get a function called “exponential”. In plain English, it is accelerating like a sports car with a lead-footed driver.

SOURCES:

Johns Hopkins Systems Science & Engineering Wuhan Tracker

FluTrackers.com

Eurosurveillance.com

Novel Infectious Diseases Blog

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