New Delhi: Just over a month ago, someone in China’s central Wuhan city complained of pneumonia-like symptoms. It took a probe to know the cause for the illness. It was coronavirus, which has a deadly history in the Asian country.
Wuhan has now seen at least 41 such pneumonia cases, including seven severely ill patients and a death.
On Sunday, the World Health Organization said there is a possibility that a new strain of coronavirus spread through human-to-human transmission, and a wider outbreak remains a concern.
On Thursday, Japan confirmed its first case of the infection from the new strain. This came three days after a Chinese woman was also ordered quarantined in Thailand after contacting the virus, reported Al-Jazeera.
ThePrint takes a quick look at what the virus does, how it has spread this time, and China’s history with it.
What is coronavirus?
According to an NBC News report, coronaviruses are “large family of viruses that was first identified in humans in the mid-1960s”. While some of these viruses cause common cold, others “found in bats, camels and other animals can evolve into more severe illnesses” such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome).
Coughing or sneezing, or touching an infected person can spread the coronavirus. A running nose, headache, cough and fever are some of the common symptoms, according to the report.
US federal agency Center for Disease Control and Prevention says shortness of breath, body aches and chills are associated with more dangerous kinds of coronavirus.
The virus gets its name from the Latin ‘corona’ (halo or crown) as it resembles one when viewed under an electron microscope.
How it spread this time
The present illness does not readily transmit between people, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission has reportedly said.
The commission said it is a possibility that the infected people caught the virus from animals at a seafood market, where some of the infected patients ran businesses.
In its statement, the WHO said it hasn’t recommended any specific health measures for travellers currently. However, the body encouraged travellers to seek medical attention and share travel history with their healthcare provider in case of any symptoms that are suggestive of respiratory illness either during or after travelling.
China’s history with coronavirus
In 2002, a severe SARS epidemic broke out in Guangdong Province in China. The epidemic reached its peak in the first week of February 2003. Over 8,000 people were infected in 37 countries before the situation was brought under control. Nearly 800 people died.
At the time, the epidemic’s cause was unknown. However, it was later revealed to be coronavirus.