Coronavirus spreads - Australian breakthrough

Novel coronavirus, temporarily named “2019-nCoV”,  has affected over 4,600 persons across the world and is spreading at a rapid pace say experts. The World Health Organization and other health organizations have stepped up vigilance to detect and isolate the infection to contain outbreaks.

“Stopping the spread of this virus both in China and globally is WHO’s highest priority,” said Dr Tedros. “We appreciate the seriousness with which China is taking this outbreak, especially the commitment from top leadership, and the transparency they have demonstrated, including sharing data and genetic sequence of the virus. WHO is working closely with the government on measures to understand the virus and limit transmission. WHO will keep working side-by-side with China and all other countries to protect health and keep people safe,” said, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO).

There have been 131 deaths in China and over 50 million are under surveillance. Wuhan Mayor has said in a statement that 5 million have left his city. According to China’s health minister the virus is potent and may spread even before symptoms appear. This would mean that healthy appearing individuals could be carriers of the virus. Scientists have warned that at least 100,000 could be carrying the virus.

CHINA, CHENGDU, Yinghui Rd.- JANUARY 23,2020: Coronavirus epidemic: IHOR SULYATYTSKYY
CHINA, CHENGDU, Yinghui Rd.- JANUARY 23,2020: Coronavirus epidemic: IHOR SULYATYTSKYY

Australian Breakthrough

Australian scientists have become the first to recreate the new coronavirus outside of China in what they have called a "significant breakthrough". Their discovery will be shared with the World Health Organization (WHO) in the hope it may help efforts to find to diagnose and treat the virus. Experts at Melbourne's Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity on Tuesday became the world's first scientific lab outside of China to recreate the virus.

“Chinese officials released the genome sequence of this novel coronavirus, which is helpful for diagnosis, however, having the real virus means we now have the ability to actually validate and verify all test methods, and compare their sensitivities and specificities - it will be a game changer for diagnosis,” Dr Druce said.

“The virus will be used as positive control material for the Australian network of public health laboratories, and also shipped to expert laboratories working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) in Europe.

Dr Mike Catton, Deputy Director of the Doherty Institute, said that possession of a virus isolate extended what could be achieved with molecular technology in the fight against this virus. The Doherty Institute-grown virus is expected to be used to generate an antibody test, which allows detection of the virus in patients who haven’t displayed symptoms and were therefore unaware they had the virus.

“An antibody test will enable us to retrospectively test suspected patients so we can gather a more accurate picture of how widespread the virus is, and consequently, among other things, the true mortality rate,” said Dr Catton. “It will also assist in the assessment of effectiveness of trial vaccines.”

The virus was grown from a patient sample that arrived at the Royal Melbourne Hospital’s Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory (VIDRL) at the Doherty Institute on Friday, 24 January.

“We’ve planned for an incident like this for many, many years and that’s really why we were able to get an answer so quickly,” said Dr Catton. Dr Catton also credited the success to Australia’s network of laboratories and public health authorities effectively working together. “We are very pleased at how it has come together and are glad we were able to respond quickly, which we will continue to do so.”

United States

In the United States, 5 persons have been confirmed to be infected with the novel coronavirus. Mayor London Breed from San Francisco has issued a statement on the 27th of January 2020 that her city has stepped up emergency measures to combat local outbreaks of the virus infection. She also confirmed that there have been no cases of the virus infection in San Francisco yet. This would assuage the fears sparked among the general population. She also assured that despite no confirmed cases, they have started an emergency operative centre in San Francisco.

According to Breed, there was a rumour that one of the flights from infected regions in china carrying US consulates and Americans in China was supposed to land in San Francisco but it has now been confirmed that the flight in question would land first in Ontario in Southern California where the passengers would be checked thrice before letting them move on. Ivar Satero said, “The first health check will be by Chinese officials for passengers boarding the plane. The second check will be by U.S. officials on the aircraft that flew into Wuhan with that flight and will do a second health check before departing.” Satero added that the third check would be after landing at Anchorage.

According to the city’s health director Dr. Tomas Aragon, people from China town in San Francisco do not need to wear masks. He said, “There's no coronavirus circulating at this time, so you will not be wearing it for those reasons. People can still wear it for other reasons like I don't want to get the flu virus that this other person next to me may have.”

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned against travel and has released a level 3 travel warning urging all Americans to refrain from travelling to China unless absolutely necessary. “Travellers should be aware that the Chinese government could prevent them from entering or exiting parts of Hubei province,” they warned. The CDC has further warned that those travelling to areas where cases have been detected must avoid contact with sick persons, animals or animal products which could be the likely source of the virus.


Mongolia has closed its borders to China and Malaysia for fear of visitors with coronavirus infections. The health officials who made this announcement said that the spread of the infection was alarming and this would protect their country from such spread.

In Mongolia the fear of the spread of the virus has prompted closure of the schools, universities and playgrounds until 2nd of March 2020 to prevent spread of the infection and further outbreaks. Till date there have been no cases of coronavirus infection in Mongolia but there has been one case reported from Malaysia.

North Korea

North Korea has already closed its borders to visitors from China and these two nations have joined the line now. Malaysia has stopped issuing visas to Chinese travellers especially from Wuhan. The nations have closed their doors to these nations after consultation with the WHO, explained their officials.

Cases have been confirmed from South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Nepal, Cambodia. Singapore, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, France and Germany say health officials.


In Germany for example Bavarian Health Ministry announced that the first case has been detected in Bavaria. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said, “We are checking and preparing for all options; that means we are also considering a possible evacuation of all those willing to leave.”


Canada has three confirmed cases out of eleven suspected. The health officials on the 27th of this month said that the mode of spread of the virus has not yet been clearly understood yet. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer, in a statement said, “One individual had been in close proximity to her husband and, having also arrived in Toronto from the area of Wuhan, could also have been exposed to the virus in China.” She could have contracted the virus in Wuhan the experts said. The couple are in separate isolation units – the man at Sunnybrook Hospital, Toronto and the woman at home. Both are stable. A third case has been confirmed by health officials in British Columbia, who say a man in his 40s tested presumptively positive after a business trip to the Chinese city of Wuhan.

This Monday, pharmaceutical companies have also announced their work on developing a vaccine against the virus. Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer from Johnson & Johnson said, “Multiple efforts are needed to make sure that at the end, one vaccine or two or three make it — because we are not sure at all.” The teams may take up to eight months to a year to make and test their vaccines, he added.

Meanwhile China’s Finance Ministry and National Health Commission has allocated funds to the tune of $8.74 billion to fight the coronavirus outbreak.


Doherty Institute scientists first to grow and share Wuhan coronavirus -

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


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