Here’s a nice article on exactly what the coronavirus is and why it is so dangerous.
Human coronaviruses (HCoVs) have long been considered inconsequential pathogens, causing the “common cold” in otherwise healthy people. However, in the 21st century, 2 highly pathogenic HCoVs—severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV)—emerged from animal reservoirs to cause global epidemics with alarming morbidity and mortality. In December 2019, yet another pathogenic HCoV, 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), was recognized in Wuhan, China, and has caused serious illness and death. The ultimate scope and effect of this outbreak is unclear at present as the situation is rapidly evolving.
Coronaviruses are large, enveloped, positive-strand RNA viruses that can be divided into 4 genera: alpha, beta, delta, and gamma, of which alpha and beta CoVs are known to infect humans.1 Four HCoVs (HCoV 229E, NL63, OC43, and HKU1) are endemic globally and account for 10% to 30% of upper respiratory tract infections in adults. Coronaviruses are ecologically diverse with the greatest variety seen in bats, suggesting that they are the reservoirs for many of these viruses.2 Peridomestic mammals may serve as intermediate hosts, facilitating recombination and mutation events with expansion of genetic diversity. The surface spike (S) glycoprotein is critical for binding of host cell receptors and is believed to represent a key determinant of host range restriction.1
Until recently, HCoVs received relatively little attention due to their mild phenotypes in humans. This changed in 2002, when cases of severe atypical pneumonia were described in Guangdong Province, China, causing worldwide concern as disease spread via international travel to more than 2 dozen countries.2 The new disease became known as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and a beta-HCoV, named SARS-CoV, was identified as the causative agent. Because early cases shared a history of human-animal contact at live game markets, zoonotic transmission of the virus was strongly suspected.3 Palm civets and raccoon dogs were initially thought to be the animal reservoir(s); however, as more viral sequence data became available, consensus emerged that bats were the natural hosts. (more…)
Second case of 2019-nCoV in the US.
3 cases of Wuhan coronavirus in France. First cases in Europe.
I will not be able to keep up with this story. The CDC’s web page has some great information.