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China coronavirus: what do we know so far?

BMJ 2020; 368 doi: (Published 24 January 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m308

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  1. Elisabeth Mahase
  1. The BMJ

Since reports of a mysterious pneumonia-like condition began circulating in December, the public health world has been keeping its eye on the events unfolding in China.1 As the numbers of confirmed cases and deaths have risen, details of the novel coronavirus now known as 2019-nCoV have dripped through. Here’s what we know so far about this evolving situation.

Where did it start?

The initial source of 2019-nCoV is still unknown, but the first cases were linked to a seafood market in the city of Wuhan, capital of the central Hubei province. The market was closed on 1 January 2020 as part of efforts to contain the outbreak.2

How many cases of the infection have been confirmed?

As at 24 January 830 cases and 26 deaths had been confirmed worldwide.3 Of the confirmed cases, around 25% are thought to be severe. Outside mainland China cases have been confirmed in Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, and the US. Cases had been reported in the UK but not yet confirmed.

Is the actual number of cases likely to be much higher?

The MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London has estimated that by 18 January 4000 people in Wuhan should have shown symptoms caused by the novel disease (uncertainty range 1000 to 9700).4 Their estimate …

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