What the latest coronavirus tells us about emerging new infections
Fielding, Burtram C.
MetadataShow full item record
Viruses are quick studies. They’re prolific at adapting to new environments and infecting new hosts. As a result they are able to jump the species divide from animals to humans – as the new coronavirus in China is showing. It’s estimated that 89% of one particular family of viruses, known as RNA viruses, are zoonotic in origin. This means that they started in animals and have since become established among humans. RNA viruses are notorious for being able to mutate in a range of environments. This family of viruses includes everything from Ebola and West Nile Fever to measles and the common cold. The Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (or SARS-CoV) that broke out in Asia in 2003 is also an RNA virus; so too is the significantly more virulent and fatal Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS‐CoV), first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Both are zoonotic. SARS-CoV is believed – although it’s never been confirmed – to have originated in bats. Infected dromedary camels are thought to have been the source for MERS-CoV.