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What's novel about Novel Coronavirus?

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That string of apparent gibberish is anything but: It’s a snippet of a DNA sequence from the viral pathogen, dubbed 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), that is overwhelming China and frightening the entire world.

To those unaware, novel coronavirus / Wuhan coronavirus / nCoV is a member of the Corona Virus family. They are known as the coronavirus because of their apparent crown shape. There are almost all 20 different coronaviruses out of which 2 have already created epidemics. The two previous coronaviruses are MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome ) and SARS ( Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome ).

How did these emerge?

Every animal has a natural collection of microbes in them. They could be good or bad. We have lots of bacteria residing in our gut and the most famous one is E. Coli. At any given point of time, there are millions of microbes on our hands, legs which do not cause any harm to us. In a similar way, bats have these coronaviruses in them.

To infect new hosts, the virus’s genes undergo mutations that alter its surface proteins, allowing them to latch onto the cells of new species. In the case of SARS, the virus jumped from bats to civet cats before gaining the ability to infect humans. In the case of MERS, camels served as the intermediate host. The new nCoV likely came from bats but the intermediate host is not yet confirmed. Preliminary research indicates that snakes could be the potential intermediate source but it is highly unlikely as snakes aren't mammals. It should've jumped from snakes to another mammal and then finally to humans.

Minimalistic representation of the transmission

About the nCoV

Now you must be wondering how these viruses spread from animals to humans. The answer is humans (in this case Chinese) eat these animals. Animals such as the civet cats, snakes, rodents are known as exotic animals (probably we need to change the definition of exotic ). The rich shell out huge sums of money to eat these animals. The possible source could be the Hunan food market in Wuhan since 27 of the first 41 cases had some kind of connection to the food market.

Among humans, it spreads via respiratory droplets. It could be cough, sneeze or a gentle kiss. It is an airborne disease and has a Ro (a measure of disease's ability to spread from one person to other)of about 1.5 to 2 making it highly contagious.

Since this is an RNA virus, it will continue to mutate as long as it continues to circulate in humans. Additional mutations as the virus adapt to the human host may make the virus less severe or more severe, or less or more efficient in spreading. It’s too early to tell what will happen, which is why ongoing surveillance by sequencing virus genomes is so important. The good news is that the virus may not be mutating at a high rate. At least 20 different sequences performed by different countries have given the same result meaning that the virus is not mutating at a high rate thus giving us hope.

How are the Chinese tackling it?

The Chinese are tackling it with all they have got. They erected a new 1000 bed hospital in 6 days time which has all the necessary things in store. I'm also attaching a link to the video which shows the newly built hospital - (Use VPN if it doesn't open). In spite of locking down the province of Hubei and the city of Wuhan, the government has made sure that the city does not run out of daily essentials and commodities. Fresh stocks are being supplied as and when possible.

Although they are seeing a huge influx of new patients each day, the good thing is that people are also getting cured. Almost all 100 people have been cured of nCoV which is remarkable. Doctors are using drugs which are generally administered to HIV patients as they are giving positive results within 48 hours.

Debunking Myths

No, cow dung or cow urine is a potential cure for nCoV at least as of now. And Xi Jinping is a busy man and is way too busy to just care about cow dung.

No, the nCoV is not a bioweapon. If at all it was a bioweapon then the director of the program needs to be sacked as it has very little mortality rate of only about 2%. SARS has an even higher mortality rate of 10%. Any country would not release a bioweapon without a cure.

No Kerala did not get the first case of nCoV due wrath of god. Neither their communist rule nor their leftist leaning is a cause for nCoV, Nipah or floods.

Until we knock some sense into stupid people, they will keep on spreading lies and survive as a parasite by propagating baseless facts. At times of distress, we need to stay united and prevent the spread of misinformation. And always remember to wash your hands with an alcohol-based sanitizer or with soap for at least 20 seconds. (This is a general precaution to prevent the spread of common cold or flu)





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