THE COVID-19 CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC: WHAT SCIENTISTS HAVE LEARNED SO FAR
A novel respiratory virus that originated in Wuhan, China, has spread to over 100 countries in Asia, Europe, North America and the Middle East. More than 100,000 have been infected, leaving many experts to fear a pandemic may already be underway.
So far, most of those infected with the virus have been in China, and most of the deaths have occurred there, as well. But now South Korea, Iran and Italy are coping with significant outbreaks. Italy has imposed restrictions throughout the country.
The United States has seen more than 800 cases and about 30 deaths. Many do not seem linked to international travel, which suggests that the virus is spreading in communities. The coronavirus may have infected up to 1,500 people in the Seattle area alone, hints a model produced by infectious disease experts. The number of infections may be doubling every six days, according to another model, but the nation’s capacity to test for the infection has lagged. Much remains unknown about the virus, including how many people may have very mild or asymptomatic infections, and whether they can transmit the virus. The precise dimensions of the outbreak are hard to know. Here’s what scientists have learned so far.
What is a coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are named for the spikes that protrude from their surfaces, resembling a crown or the sun’s corona. They can infect both animals and people, and can cause illnesses of the respiratory tract. At least four types of coronaviruses cause very mild infections every year, like the common cold. Most people get infected with one or more of these viruses at some point in their lives.