The New Coronavirus Explained

By

CCSS NAS-1 NAS-6 NCSS-8
The 2019-nCoV, or Wuhan virus, is a new coronavirus infecting people worldwide (Credit: Geralt/Pixabay/CCO)

On December 31, 2019, Chinese officials announced that 27 people in Wuhan, the capital of Central China’s Hubei province, had been infected with a new strain of the coronavirus. Since then, the number of cases of the contagious affliction labeled 2019-nCoV, COVID-19, or Wuhan virus, have rapidly increased, with new cases being reported daily. On Thursday, January 30, 2020, The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a global emergency, highlighting the urgency for a rapid coordinated international response to curb this global health risk.

As of January 31, 2020, 7,711 instances of the infection, including 200 deaths, had been reported in China. Additionally, about 100 people in 19 countries, including the United States, Germany, France, South Korea, and Singapore, have also tested positive for the virus. Here is everything you need to know about the Wuhan virus, which has gripped the world's attention since the beginning of 2020.

​​​​What is a coronavirus?

Coronaviruses get their name from the crown-like spikes on the virus' surface (Credit: www.scientificanimations.com/ CC BY-SA 4.0)

Coronaviruses are a common cause of colds and other upper respiratory infections in humans and certain other mammals and birds. The microbes, which get their name from the crown-like ("corona" in Latin) spikes on their surface, are zoonotic, which means they can easily spread from one animal to another. Every now and again, an animal coronavirus mutates to infect humans, leading to contagious respiratory infections that have never been encountered before. This makes it harder for physicians to diagnose and cure, and results in outbreaks similar to the one the world is currently undergoing.

How often do coronaviruses evolve to infect humans?

Coronaviruses sometimes evolve to infect humans, causing widespread outbreaks (Credit: Daniel Wood/NPR.org)

While there are hundreds of coronaviruses, only seven have thus far evolved to infect humans. Of these, only two have resulted in outbreaks. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which originated in the Guangdong province of southern China in November 2002, infected a total of 8,098 people worldwide, resulting in 774 deaths, before it was contained in July 2003. The microbes were believed to have been transmitted to humans by the cave-dwelling horseshoe bats in China's Yunnan province.

Though the first case of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) occurred in Saudi Arabia in April 2012, the infection remained relatively contained until 2014, when the numbers suddenly began to rise. By the time it was contained in late 2015, 1,329 cases, including 525 deaths, had been attributed to the infection. A 2014 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine indicated that the microbes responsible for MERS had originated from camels.

From where did the Wuhan virus originate?

Since it was first observed primarily in stallholders, the Wuhan virus is believed to have originated from the Wuhan seafood market, which also trades in illegal wildlife like bats, marmots, birds, and snakes. Although an initial analysis of the microbes suggested the new strain was similar to the coronavirus encountered in snakes, scientists now believe that, similar to SARS, the Wuhan virus is a mutation from bats.

What is being done to stop the virus from spreading further?

Confirmed cases of people infected with the Wuhan virus worldwide, as of January 30, 2020 (Credit: www.cdc.gov)

Since January 22, 2020, Chinese authorities have imposed a travel ban on the 11 million residents of Wuhan and suspended all buses, ferries, trains, and flights out of the city. Public transportation has also been halted in the nearby cities of Huanggang, Ezhou, Zhejiang, and Chibi, which together are home to more than nine million residents, and Xiantao and Qianjiang, two other cities that include large rural populations.

Meanwhile, Wuhan officials are closely tracking the health of the family members of all infected patients, as well as the residents who visited the now shuttered market around the time the virus was first detected. The Chinese government has installed infrared thermometers at exit points across the country. Anyone registering even a slight fever is instantly taken to a medical center for diagnosis and treatment.

Similar measures are being taken worldwide to stop the spread of the virus. On Tuesday, January 28, 2020, Hong Kong officials announced restricting or closing some of its border crossings with mainland China. They also shut down all schools until March 2020.

On Friday, January 31, 2020, three major US airlines — United, American, and Delta — announced they were halting all flights to mainland China until further notice. Additionally, all flights from China to the U.S. will be funneled to one of seven airports, where enhanced public health screenings will be required for Americans returning from China. These include, Los Angeles International, San Francisco International, Honolulu International, Seattle-Tacoma International, New York's John F. Kennedy International, Chicago O'Hare International, and Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International. Meanwhile, US corporations like Apple Inc. and Amazon have banned US employees from traveling to the country and are asking their employees in China to work from home.

What are the symptoms of the Wuhan virus?

Typical symptoms of the Wuhan virus (Credit: Mikael Häggström, M.D/[CC0)

The symptoms of the Wuhan virus are similar to those experienced when afflicted with the flu. They include fever, cough, fatigue, muscle pain, and shortness of breath. Some victims have also experienced severe headaches and diarrhea.

There is no specific treatment currently available for those infected with the new coronavirus. However, the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains that, if diagnosed in a timely manner, most people will recover on their own by simply resting and taking commonly-available cold medication to relieve symptoms. Additionally, the disease's most severe cases have thus far been restricted to the elderly or those with a preexisting respiratory illness.

What precautions can I take?

Though scientists are not entirely sure how this virus is spreading, coronaviruses typically pass through droplets containing large particles that can only be suspended in the air for three to six feet before dissipating. Hence, they recommend taking simple precautions, like washing hands frequently and thoroughly, avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with your hands, and staying away from people displaying flu-like symptoms. Those experiencing any of the symptoms associated with the virus are advised to cover their coughs and sneezes with their inner elbows. Most importantly, however, they should stay away from school, work, or any public area where they have the risk of infecting others.

Bottom line

Experts say that unless you have been in close contact with someone who has the coronavirus — which right now, typically means an infected traveler from Wuhan, China — you can rest easy. While things may change in the future, the CDC currently maintains that most US residents have a higher chance of contracting the common flu than the Wuhan virus!

Resources: Cnet.com, whoint.com, CDC.gov, CNN.com,LAtimes.com

Get the Workbook for this article!

Workbook contains: Article, Reading Comprehension, Critical Thinking Questions, Vocabulary in Context (+ answers), Multiple Choice Quiz (+ answers), Parts of Speech Quiz (+ answers), Vocabulary Game (+ answers)
Cite Article
595 Comments
  • the_wolf
    the_wolfTuesday, June 23, 2020 at 7:03 am
    Oh. My. StarClan. I cant beleive this.... *shrieks so loud Japan can hear it*
    • animereina2020
      animereina2020Monday, June 8, 2020 at 8:17 pm
      I wish that corona was just a myth... But it isn't sadly...
      • lauraeastfly
        lauraeastflyWednesday, June 3, 2020 at 7:11 am
        Thank you
        • animereina2020
          animereina2020Tuesday, June 2, 2020 at 12:07 pm
          We are BIGGER than this virus, and I know that if we keep up the good work, we will most likely get back to normal life. They are messing with the wrong people, and there is no light without darkness... What I am saying is that you know that we couldn't use a candle without it being dark, so this virus is the darkness, and we are the light, and hope too. Without anything bad going on, there wouldn't be any light... I hope you understand what I am trying to say...
          • amers
            amersWednesday, July 22, 2020 at 8:47 am
            I understand, I I know two people who have it and they are old too!😭😭😭 Thank You Doctors and nurses and all front line workers who ARE the heros of the YEAR!!😁❤❤ As long as we stay inside unless we NEED to get outside instead of the virus killing us we can KIll the virus. I hope u see what I'm saying....❤❤ So , Stay safe, and don't give up. Rules to stop virus: Wash your hands for at a twenty seconds. Stay six feet apart from friends or anyone really. Don't worry :) I hope you all stay safe and happy!!❤❤❤👍👍😁
            • pieinthesky09
              pieinthesky09Wednesday, June 24, 2020 at 3:40 pm
              I love your opinion on this!!!
              • bookfan2008
                bookfan2008Tuesday, June 9, 2020 at 8:53 am
                I fully understand, @animerina2020! Your definatly right!
                • the_wolf
                  the_wolfTuesday, June 23, 2020 at 7:02 am
                  animerina2020 is myfollower to bookfan!
                  • pieinthesky09
                    pieinthesky09Wednesday, June 24, 2020 at 3:42 pm
                    animerina2020 inspired me!!!😀and so.did you pink dancer!
                • effie302
                  effie302Wednesday, June 3, 2020 at 7:12 am
                  I sure do know what you're saying and its so true!!!
                • turtlereadz
                  turtlereadzWednesday, May 20, 2020 at 12:29 pm
                  Wow, I had never knew that much info about the virus.. Stay safe everyone! :)
                  • mhkgc235
                    mhkgc235Tuesday, May 12, 2020 at 4:57 am
                    i am doing classes weekday every day on zoom. I discovered you can do green screen back rounds!! but they can be a bit dodgy!
                    • animereina2020
                      animereina2020Thursday, May 7, 2020 at 8:00 pm
                      There is no light without darkness...
                      • leiker1414
                        leiker1414Tuesday, July 14, 2020 at 5:45 pm
                        Yep. So true.
                      • thernsi
                        thernsiFriday, May 1, 2020 at 7:30 pm
                        By the way good thing that human body that tells the symptoms didn't go any further down then we would have seen something that we shouldn't have seen
                        • ltheawesome1
                          ltheawesome1Wednesday, April 29, 2020 at 9:10 am
                          I got a puppy and he is so cute. So that is the only good thing about this time. It is that I got a puppy.
                          • turtlereadz
                            turtlereadzWednesday, May 20, 2020 at 12:28 pm
                            I bet you do have a cute puppy. Try to enjoy time with her before the Coronavirus ends!! :3
                            • animereina2020
                              animereina2020Thursday, May 7, 2020 at 7:57 pm
                              You have a cute puppy to keep you happy and entertained, and to also snuggle with! You had gotten a puppy at the right time! My dogos try to cheer me up when I am going through tough times, so maybe your pup will do the same❤ I am happy for you! The adventure starts now XD
                            • kittiesmama
                              kittiesmamaMonday, April 27, 2020 at 9:42 am
                              My school is closed for the rest of the year! It's been since March since I've got to see my friends! You are not alone! You guys are inspiring everyone around you!😁😷💕💖👏
                              • freyfreyfrey
                                freyfreyfreyTuesday, May 12, 2020 at 4:37 am
                                I just went to school today for the first time in around 1-2 months!