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Preliminary tests have indicated that the cause of the mystery pneumonia that has infected almost 60 people in the Chinese city of Wuhan since December is caused by a new strain of coronavirus (of the same family as SARS).
The scientists have found the "new type" of coronavirus by testing infected blood samples and throat swabs collected from 15 people.
The coronavirus can cause anything from the common cold to much more severe diseases. Notably, it caused an epidemic of the potentially deadly, flu-like SARS virus back in 2002-03, which killed more than 700 people around the world after originating in China.
WHO representative to China said "further investigations" were required to "determine the source, modes of transmission, extent of infection and countermeasures implemented".
Singapores airport says it will begin temperature screening travellers from Wuhan and Hong Kong health officials say they are also implementing checks on passengers. Authorities in Hong Kong have also stepped up the disinfection of trains and aeroplanes.
No cases of human-to-human transmission have been confirmed as yet.
About Corona Virus
- Coronaviruses are the cause of 5 to 10 percent of community-acquired upper respiratory tract infections in adults.
- Coronaviruses are medium-sized enveloped positive-stranded RNA viruses whose name derives from their characteristic crown-like appearance in electron micrographs.
- In temperate climates, coronavirus respiratory infections occur primarily in the winter, although smaller peaks are sometimes seen in the fall or spring, and infections can occur at any time of the year.
- Most community-acquired coronavirus infections are diagnosed clinically, although reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction applied to respiratory secretions is the diagnostic test of choice.
- There is currently no treatment recommended for coronavirus infections except for supportive care as needed.
- Chloroquine which has potent antiviral activity against the SARS-CoV has been shown to have similar activity against HCoV-229E in cultured cells and against HCoV-OC43 both in cultured cells and in a mouse model.
- Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus are also described.
Dr KK Aggarwal
President CMAAO, HCFI and Past National President IMA