The new coronavirus strain has infected so far 59 people in Wuhan, a city in central China. No deaths have been reported and eight patients have been discharged from the hospital. Researchers still have to determine which animal is the source of the virus, its incubation period and the transmission route. A vaccine may take years.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Chinese health authorities have confirmed concerns expressed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that the cause of the mystery pneumonia that has infected 59 people in the central Chinese city of Wuhan is a new strain of coronavirus from the same family that caused the 2002-2003 Sars[*] outbreak.
Laboratory tests have identified the new virus and the whole genome sequence has been obtained, state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Thursday, citing a task force of medical experts.
Since Chinese authorities have conducted laboratory tests and eliminated the Sars coronavirus and the Mers[†] as possible causes, "a novel coronavirus could not be ruled out,” the WHO said in a statement yesterday.
Unlike Sars, which killed 349 people in mainland China and 299 in Hong Kong in 2003, no deaths have been reported in Wuhan.
Eight patients who no longer show pneumonia symptoms have been discharged from hospital by Wednesday.
Local health authority in Wuhan have said that no human-to-human transmission has so far been detected.
Many of the people infected worked in a seafood market where wild animals were also sold. The market has since been closed.
The first case in Wuhan was identified on 12 December and the latest on 29 December.
Despite the announcement of the discovery of the virus, experts warn that some important details still need to be established, such as which animal is the source of the virus, the incubation period and the transmission route.
Although it is possible to find evidence of a pathogen in a short period of time, it could take years to produce a vaccine.
[*] Severe acute respiratory syndrome.
[†] Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.