The coronavirus outbreaks has shown no signs of abating. As per the latest reports, 80 people have died in China and as many as 2,744 people have been confirmed with the deadly virus across the nation.
How is Coronavirus different from SARS?
  1. The new virus has created alarm because much about it is still unknown, such as how dangerous it is and how easily it spreads between people. 
  2. It can cause pneumonia, which has been deadly in some cases. Unlike SARS, the new virus infectious in its incubation period, which can range from 1 day to 14 days, making it harder to contain. 
  3. This was not the case with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) making the new coronavirus harder to contain. 
  4. At a press briefing in Beijing on 26 January 2020, the head of China's disease control agency, Gao Fu, said it was "not as powerful as SARS," but officials warned it could be getting stronger.
How fast is the virus spreading?
  1. China says the virus is mutating and can be transmitted through human contact. Two scientific analyses of the epidemic say each person infected is passing the disease on to between two and three other people. 
How many countries are affected by the Coronavirus till now?
  1. In addition, 17 confirmed cases were reported in Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions and Taiwan, besides eight in Hong Kong, five in Macao and four in Taiwan. 
  2. Overseas, confirmed cases included seven in Thailand, four each in Australia and Singapore, three each in the United States, the Republic of Korea, Japan, France and Malaysia, two in Vietnam and one in Nepal.
What are the governments around the world doing to stall the outbreak?
  1. Three research teams have begun work on developing potential vaccines, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations said. 
  2. Scientists hope to be testing the first possible vaccines in three months time. China is testing the HIV drug Aluvia as a treatment. 
  3. On 26 January 2020, China temporarily banned nationwide the sale of wildlife in markets, restaurants, and e-commerce platforms. 
  4. Wild and poached animals packed together in markets are blamed as incubators for viruses to evolve and jump the species barrier to humans. 
  5. There are severe travel restrictions in Wuhan, with urban transport shut and outgoing flights suspended. China will halt all group tours, affecting tourism both at home and to other countries, from January 27. 
  6. Hong Kong has barred residents of Hubei province from entering the city. France, Italy, Japan, Australia and the United States have all said they are working to evacuate citizens from Wuhan. Airports around the world have stepped up screening.
Did snakes transmit the deadly new Coronavirus to humans? 
  1. As scientists across the world continue to grapple with the origin of the deadly new strain of coronavirus in China, which has infected over 2,000 people across countries, a research team in Beijing has found that snakes are the reservoirs of the deadly virus. Several virologists, however, remain skeptical about the new finding.
  2. Finding the reservoir and the host is crucial, for it could help scientists to gauge the actual threat of how virulent the strain is and if the outbreak has the potential to persist and accordingly prepare for the crisis. Genetic information of the “animal" could help in determining the extent of human-to-human transmission.
  3. The study published recently in the Journal of Medical Virology was carried out by a team of microbiologists from Peking University Health Science Center, School of Basic Medical Sciences, Beijing.
  4. According to the team, two snakes- Bungarus multicinctus (the many-banded krait) and Naja atra (the Chinese cobra), which are commonly sold at the Wuhan seafood and animal market could be the most likely animal reservoir for the 2019-nCoV.
  5. The link was established on the basis of “codons", which are basically sequences of three nucleotides in DNA or RNA that encode amino acids –the building blocks of proteins. Sometimes, viruses tend to encode proteins, using the same choice of codons as their host to adapt themselves to it.
  6. In this case, they compared the codons favoured by the virus to hedgehogs, a spiny mammal, pangolins (anteaters), chickens, bats, humans and snakes, but found them to be most similar to those used by the two snakes.
  7. The initial cases of current outbreak were epidemiologically linked to Seafood market in Wuhan, China, which has several animals for sale. 
  8. Early analysis of the genome also indicated that SARS CoV and nCoV 2019 share the same receptor for attachment to host cell," said Prof. G Arunkumar, Director, Manipal Institute of Virology.
  9. Both SARS CoV and 2019-nCoV belong to the family of Coronaviruses and are part of the same virus subgroup known as beta-coronaviruses.