Scientists are increasingly concerned about a new virus that has infected tens of thousands of people and killed more than 1,000. The virus is a coronavirus, and belongs to the same family as the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. It causes a respiratory illness, can spread from person to person, and emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December.
The World Health Organization has officially named the disease caused by the coronavirus COVID-19. This name will replace various monikers and hashtags given to the emerging disease over the past few weeks. Most recently, on 8 February, China’s National Health Commission decided to temporarily call the disease Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia, or NCP. But because viruses will continue to spread from animals to people, this coronavirus won’t be novel for long.
“COVID-19 stands for coronavirus disease in 2019,” said Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at the World Health Organization, at a press briefing. She explained that because there are many coronaviruses, this style of naming will provide a format for naming new coronavirus diseases in future years. “The virus itself is named by international group of virologists who will look into the taxonomy,” she said. “But it is important to have a name for this disease that everybody uses.”
Two other diseases caused by coronaviruses were given names describing the clinical manifestations: SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome).
The number of people in China who have been killed by the coronavirus is now more than 1,000, the nation’s health authorities report. Worldwide, more than 43,000 people have now been infected.
Millions of people in China returned to work on Monday after the Lunar New Year holiday, which was extended by more than a week in an effort to halt the spread of the virus — although many businesses still remain closed.
Researchers will be closely watching to see whether cases increase as a result of people going back to work.
Courtesy- Nature Research