Public health experts around the globe are scrambling to understand, track, and contain a new virus that appeared in Wuhan, China at the start of December.
You can see where and how many cases have been reported in this real-time map created by US researchers. So far, there have been more than 1,000 confirmed cases and 41 deaths. The majority of the illnesses are in Wuhan, but cases have been reported in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Macau, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, France, and the US.
As this important story continues to unfold, The Verge will update this page with all the latest news and analysis. Our hope is to answer all your questions as people work to understand this virus and contain its spread.
Coronaviruses are common in animals of all kinds, and sometimes can evolve into forms that can infect humans. Since the start of the century, two other coronaviruses have jumped to humans, causing the SARS outbreak in 2002 and the MERS outbreak in 2012.
Scientists think this new virus first became capable of jumping to humans at the beginning of December. It appears to have first infected people at a seafood market in Wuhan, and spread from there.
The type of animal the virus originated from is not clear. One team of researchers in China published a report arguing that it came from snakes, based on the genetic code of the virus. However, scientists are very skeptical of that conclusion. Another analysis found that the genetic sequence of the new virus is 96 percent identical to one coronavirus found in bats. Both SARS and MERS originated in bats.
On January 22nd, officials in Wuhan shut down all transportation in the city, which is home to over 11 million people — they closed buses and subways, and canceled all flights and trains in and out of the city. The director general of the WHO applauded the decision, saying that it would help control the outbreak and slow the spread into other countries. Fifteen other cities, home to a total of 46 million people, are locked down as well, the New York Times reported.
However, other officials weren’t sure if these quarantines would be effective: “To my knowledge, trying to contain a city of 11 million people is new to science,” Gauden Galea, the World Health Organization’s representative in China, told the Associated Press. “It has not been tried before as a public health measure. We cannot at this stage say it will or it will not work.”
Four cities in China — Beijing, Wuhan, Zhejiang, and Macau — canceled celebrations for the Lunar New Year, a huge holiday in China.