Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources

Feb. 25, 2020

Background: A new strain of coronavirus causing pneumonia-like symptoms was recently identified in Wuhan, China, marking the beginning of the spread of the virus across the globe. Coronaviruses (CoV), so named for their “crown-like” appearance, are a large family of viruses that spread from animals to humans and include diseases like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Researchers have now confirmed that the virus can spread via human-to-human transmission, though the original source of the virus has not been identified.
 

Latest Updates: 

  • Tuesday, Feb. 25: CDC has warned that disruptions to the U.S. from COVID-19 could be severe. The agency expects the disease to begin spreading at the community level in the U.S.
  • Friday, Feb. 21: CDC is working closely with health care systems across the country to reinforce infection control principles and plans for surges of people seeking and requiring care. CDC is reviewing all pandemic and influenza materials and adapting them to COVID-19. This week they will post a new web page focused on what CDC is already doing to mitigate transmission in communities.
    • Update on how CDC is counting COVID-19 cases in the U.S. - Case counts will be tracked in 2 categories. One only tracks people who were repatriated by the state department (from Wuhan and from the Diamond Princess cruise ship) and the second tracks all other cases picked up through U.S. public health network. Repatriated individuals are separated because this category doesn’t reflect transmission and risk in general in the U.S. 
  • Thursday, Feb. 20: Nearly all of the remaining people who returned from Wuhan, China, via state department chartered flights have completed their 14-day quarantine. These people are no longer infected or at risk for spreading the virus to others.
  • Wednesday, Feb. 5: 24,6076 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed and there have been 494 deaths, most in China and 1 in the Philippines. The virus has now spread to 28 countries and there are now 11 cases in the U.S. Source: Johns Hopkins CSSE.
  • Sunday, Feb. 2: The Trump administration has ordered that any American citizen returning to the U.S. from the Hubei province will be subject to a quarantine of 14 days upon arrival.
  • Friday, Jan. 24: The CDC had confirmed 2 cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. – in Snohomish County, WA and Chicago – in individuals who have visited Wuhan. The CDC has identified 63 patients under investigation, 11 of whom have tested negative for the virus. The CDC has reported no additional cases after screening over 2,000 people from 200 flights in 5 airports. Emerging data suggests the virus incubates for approximately 2 weeks.
  • Thursday, Jan. 23: The new virus has resulted in 17 deaths and more than 555 confirmed cases, and has been reported in Hong Kong, Macao, South Korea, Taiwan, the U.S., Thailand, Japan and possibly Australia and the Philippines. 
  • The World Health Organization is following the outbreak to determine if COVID-19 constitutes a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). On Thursday, January 30, WHO Declared Coronavirus A Global Health Emergency. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now screening passengers arriving from Wuhan on entry at multiple international airports.


This situation is ongoing and evolving, and we will continue to update as information becomes available.


Latest Updates from ASM:

ASM is providing free access to nearly 50 research articles published over the last year in ASM’s 16 scholarly journals to support research efforts and communications about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

ASM Journals are also expediting review for submitted papers related to coronavirus, ensuring that the new research is quickly made available to the scientific community. 

ASM's latest press releases include: 

ASM issued the following policy statement: 

To speak with an expert on coronavirus, please email communications@asmusa.org.
 




What to Know about the New Coronavirus

Stanley Perlman, M.D., Ph.D., an American Academy of Microbiology fellow, an ASM member and professor at the University of Iowa, talks about the outbreak of a novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
 



What is a coronavirus? How does it compare to other types of viruses (like the common cold or flu)?
 
“Cold and flu and coronaviruses are all RNA viruses (rather than DNA). Coronaviruses contain the largest genomic RNA in terms of any virus. We don’t know yet if/how this novel virus is different from other human pathogenic coronaviruses, like SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV.
 
In the past, coronaviruses were studied primarily in domestic and companion animals, until the first outbreak (SARS) in 2003. While we don’t know if this novel virus is different from SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, it does seem to behave more like SARS-CoV. All 3 cause severe human respiratory disease and have higher rates of mortality than the influenza or other respiratory viruses.”

What does the higher rate of cases and lower number of reported deaths indicate about this disease versus other coronaviruses?

"It shows that the virus is more easily transmissible and fortunately is much less likely to cause severe disease. This probably occurs because so many COVID-19 cases involve the upper airways and less so the lungs."

Why is human-to-human transmission significant?
 
“A lot of diseases don’t reach a broader audience or get as much attention because many viruses go from animals to people but are not transmitted to other humans (e.g. EEE). If a virus can spread from human to human, then to be infected, a person doesn’t need to be around the zoonotic source that caused the initial infection. Efficient human-to-human spread is a major concern because no one is immune to this new coronavirus.
 
The possible silver lining is that this virus appears to be like SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, in that it does not spread from person to person very efficiently. The virus affects the lower lungs, which means it must reach the upper airways to be transmissible. This means the virus is less contagious than the flu (which is detected in upper airways and nose so can be more readily be transmitted). However, if the new coronavirus mutates and begins to infect the upper airways, this could become problematic.”

Do we know the source of the outbreak?
 
“This virus is 95% the same as a virus already identified in bats. SARS-CoV was a bat virus that likely had an intermediate host and MERS-CoV crosses from camels to infect humans. It’s likely this new coronavirus originated in bats. 
 
It is important to know an outbreak source because then one can stop transmission to humans. Elimination of exposure to bats, for example, would minimize new bat-to-human transmission.”
 
What is the importance of early testing for COVID-19‚Äč infection?
 
“The earlier we test for coronavirus infection, the faster someone can be isolated and given the appropriate therapy. Proper precautions will prevent transmission to others.” 
 
What can we learn from the genetic sequence of the virus?
 
“By studying the genetic sequence of the virus, we can determine what proteins it uses, how it replicates and what makes the virus unique. This information will allow us to design antiviral solutions and develop animal models. It is important to follow its epidemiology; for instance: does the virus change over time or become more virulent or efficient? We need people on the ground so they can collect specimens and we can get useful clinical samples.”
 
What is the appropriate level of caution we should use?
 
“This is a hard question to address. We are seeing more cases at an earlier time in the epidemic than was true with SARS and MERS. More casual persons are being affected, as opposed to health care workers or those in close contact with infected patients. One has to be cautious and aware of their surroundings: wash your hands and stay home if you feel ill.”

Is there any indication that those who have had another coronavirus (SARS, MERS or even the cold-causing CoVs) would have natural immunity to COVID-19?

"No, those who have had SARS infection might have some protection but this is completely unknown."


Is this outbreak considered a “pandemic”? What are the “requirements” to be classified as a pandemic?

"A pandemic is world wide with a large number of infections everywhere. This virus is epidemic and may become pandemic."



ASM Resources:

Special session on coronaviruses at ASM Biothreats meeting:
Coronavirus Infections: More than Just the Common Cold
Presented by Dr. Anthony Fauci


Airport Screening for COVID-19 Begins January 17

ASM Journal papers on coronaviruses

Press releases covering coronaviruses

Articles covering coronaviruses

Press play to listen to an update on the coronavirus causing respiratory disease in China.
Additional podcasts covering coronaviruses


Other Resources:

CDC COVID-19 Updates

WHO COVID-19 Updates

From NPR: MAP: Confirmed Cases Of Wuhan Coronavirus. Cases of Wuhan coronavirus in China have increased to 830 and deaths to 25. Most of the new cases are relatives or health care workers who have come into close contact with a sick person.

CDC’s Advanced Molecular Detection (AMD) program plays a pivotal role when outbreaks occur, especially when the a novel virus emerges. Next generation sequencing allows for more precise identification of these pathogens, and AMD is being deployed in the current work on the coronavirus.



Coronavirus Experts:

Stanley Perlman,
MD, Ph.D.
stanley-perlman@uiowa.edu
Professor
Depts of Microbiology and Immunology, and Pediatrics
University of Iowa

Malik Peiris, 
MBBS, FRCPath, D Phil (Oxon), FHKAM (Path), FRCP, FRS
malik@hku.hk
Tam Wah-Ching Professorship in Medical Science
Division of Public Health Laboratory Sciences
Hong Kong University


Author: ASM Communications

ASM Communications
ASM Communications staff.