A new strain of coronavirus has been identified within patients of a recent ongoing pneumonia outbreak in the city of Wuhan in China. According to the New York Times, over 2,800 cases have been reported along with 80 confirmed deaths. The disease has spread a total of 15 countries, including Japan, South Korea, Thailand and the U.S, where a first case was confirmed last Wednesday.
The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a new form of coronavirus on their website on Jan 12. Chinese authorities have since confirmed it can be transferred from person to person and have restricted the travel of over 35 million people to try and stop the transmission.
Coronaviruses were first identified in the 1960s as a cause for a common cold, but more severe strains have sparked deadly outbreaks in Asia. Two outbreaks of new coronavirus strains in Saudi Arabia and China targeted the respiratory system in humans and have been responsible for the deaths of over 1,600 people since they were first identified. The 2002 outbreak in China, caused by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus, was handled poorly by the government and wasn’t disclosed to the public until the virus was widespread.
Chinese authorities, which have been issuing reports on the spread of the new strain of the disease, have seemingly learned from past mistakes and are showing more transparency. WHO officials believe the new virus was transmitted from a wild animal sold in a Wuhan wholesale seafood and meat market.