A novel variant of the coronavirus is spreading from China. Almost 30,000 people in China are demonstrably infected, and more than 550 have died of the lung disease. Experts assume that there is a high number of undetected cases of infected people, whereby the infection is so mild that there is no danger to life.
In the meantime, cases of infection have been reported from almost 30 countries.
The World Health Organization WHO has declared an international health emergency because of the epidemic. This is primarily a matter of international coordination in dealing with the epidemic.
The virus called 2019-nCoV can cause a respiratory disease with high fever and lead to severe pneumonia. – It is contagious from person to person via a droplet infection, possibly also via a smear infection.
The first infections are associated with a now closed fish market in Wuhan, where wild animals were also sold. It is possible that the virus was originally transmitted via direct contact between animals and humans (zoonosis), or – like many germs – simply via the air.
What do they know about the virus?
Recently, experts had deciphered the gene sequence of the new coronavirus 2019-nCoV, which had not previously been diagnosed in humans.
Corona viruses have been known since the 1960s. The name is derived from the outwardly protruding, crown-shaped protein structure of the virus envelope. Basically, coronaviruses are nothing out of the ordinary. Infections are often harmless – for example with flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath. Gastrointestinal complaints, especially diarrhoea, can also occur.
However, coronaviruses are treacherous and extremely versatile – they belong to the group of RNA viruses and have a high genetic variability. This means that they can easily overcome species barriers and infect a wide variety of host species. As a result, the viruses also cause more severe disease courses, with respiratory distress and pneumonia, which can even lead to death.