What Do We Know About the COVID-19 Outbreak?


Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), has called the new coronavirus strain, COVID-19, “public enemy number one”. The new strain was discovered in the Chinese city of Wuhan, by a group of doctors; one of them was killed by the virus. They first described the new virus as SARS-like; it was later known as COVID-19 to distinguish it from the other coronavirus strains that preceded it: SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV.

A new strain of a virus means it has never existed before, which brings us to how this outbreak started in the Chinese city, and which customs and traditions led to its formation and transmission. It is important to note before going any further that the new strain of the virus, COVID-19, is still being researched and this is what we know so far about how it started.

Studies suggest that COVID-19 started in Wuhan market, where a trade of wild animals thrived, ranging from marmots, to bats and snakes. The new coronavirus is zoonotic; it is transmitted from animals to humans. The Wuhan market seems like a great place for new strains of viruses to develop as infected animals can transmit it to stallholders or others.

Until today, although it has been suggested that the new virus is similar to viruses observed in snakes, the animal source of COVID-19 is still a mystery. Some scientists have noticed that the genetic makeup of the virus is 96% similar to coronavirus in bats. The Chinese government closed the Wuhan market on 1 January 2020, but the virus had already spread beyond the market and found its way worldwide.

The Wuhan market was not the only market trading in wild animals in China; across the country, similar markets sold wild animals for different reasons, including exotic dishes and medicinal purposes. After the outbreak, the Chinese government banned selling wild animals; however, ending the trade would be difficult as wild animals trade is deeply rooted in the Chinese culture.

A virologist from Hong Kong University said that animals “have their own viruses”, and that these “viruses can jump from one species to another species, then that species may become an amplifier”. Although the Wuhan market is the most likely suspect in the outbreak of this pandemic, there are some who believe that the virus may have originated earlier. Yet, one way or another, the virus has originated due to our proximity to some of the species we are not supposed to be around.

The virus has originated in China and spread worldwide. Nowadays, China is praised for its attempts to control the virus in all Chinese cities, which they have successfully done. Being strict with using quarantine is one of the main factors that enabled China to control and stop the transmission of the disease. A virus spreads from one infected person to another; that is why social distancing, quarantines, and self-isolation for those infected seems to be the answer to fighting the new coronavirus.



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