(Updated Feb 06 15:15 PST to reflect current numbers) The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus (2019-nCoV) a public health emergency of international concern after its emergency committee convened on January 30, in response to the potential for the virus to spread to other countries,
The highly adaptable nature of viruses is one of their most dangerous strengths. They are programmed to survive at all costs, mutating into different forms that often make the leap between different species. The infamous Ebola virus, which has infected almost 15,000 people in Africa this year, first evolved in monkeys and then evolved into a form which could be transmitted to humans.
Mammal to mammal transmission is not a huge leap to make, however, as the physiology involved is similar in each species. But could viruses that affect totally different life forms, such as algae, possibly evolve into a variety that could threaten humans?
Ebola may not be the only viral threat to come out of Africa. Another family of viruses, deadly in some cases, may have already jumped from fruit bats into humans in Africa, according to a study published today in the journal Nature Communications.
The study provides the first, preliminary scientific evidence that “spillover” of henipaviruses into human populations is underway.
Henipaviruses are known to cause rare infections, with some strains harmless, and others with mortality rates approaching 90 percent (similar rates to Ebola). This family of viruses has been a concern since two of its members, Nipah and Hendra, emerged in Australia and Southeast Asia less than 20 years ago.
The search for 132 potential Ebola victims has now begun in the United States after an infected nurse flew from Ohio to Dallas on a Frontier Airlines flight.
The nurse, Amber Vincent, had been treating Ebola patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, who has since died in a Dallas hospital. She was unaware that she had contracted the disease and had been visiting her mother since Friday to prepare for her wedding.