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  • Host Of Wuhan Coronavirus May Have Been Snakes Sold In A Chinese Wet Market

    Coronaviruses are zoonotic, which means they can be transmitted from animals to humans
    by Rachel Perez .
Host Of Wuhan Coronavirus May Have Been Snakes Sold In A Chinese Wet Market
PHOTO BY iStock
  • If bats are said to be the original source of MERS and SARS-CoV, snakes are now being linked to the Wuhan coronavirus (2019-nCOV), the animal virus that has spread to humans.

    The Chinese krait, also known as the many-banded krait or Taiwanese krait, and the Chinese cobra, both highly venomous snake species, may have been traded in a wet market in Wuhan. Many of the first patients either worked or visited a large seafood and live animal market that sold bats, snakes, and other wild and farm animals. It has since been shut down and disinfected.

    Coronaviruses are zoonotic, which means they can be transmitted from animals to humans. It's the same family of viruses responsible for the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which reportedly originated from civet cats.

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    Researchers used samples of the virus taken from patients and compared their genetic code with 217 similar viruses collected from a range of species. One study published in the journal Science China Life Sciences showed that the 2019-nCOV looks identical to two SARS-like coronavirus samples found in bats. 

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    But a more comprehensive analysis of the virus's DNA suggests that it's most similar to virus strains seen in snakes, according to the second study published in the Journal of Medical Virology. The researchers are looking to find the 2019-nCoV sequence in snakes.

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    The new virus may have formed when the viruses from bats and snakes combined, according to the New Scientist report quoting health researcher Peter Rabinowitz, of the University of Washington in Seattle. This can happen when animals are kept in close quarters, like in the food market.

    Cui Jie, a virologist from Pasteur Institute of Shanghai, told Nature that a mammal is the most likely candidate as the source of the Wuhan coronavirus. Jie was part of the team that identified SARS-related viruses in bats from a cave in Yunnan province in southwestern China in 2017.

    None of the studies explained how the 2019-nCOV was transmitted from animals to humans. Researchers suggested that there was an animal that acted as an "intermediate host," but it has yet to be identified.

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    The 2019-nCOV was first detected in Wuhan City, a major transport hub in the Hubei province in China, in December 2019. It can cause a severe and potentially-fatal pneumonia-like illness. Symptoms of the new coronavirus are typical signs of pneumonia — mainly high fever and coughing, with some patients having difficulty breathing. 

    Chinese authorities have admitted that the new strain can be spread through breathing, which is why the virus spread quickly.

    CNN reports that more than 830 cases have been confirmed in nearly all provinces in mainland China, including its capital Beijing, Shanghai, Macao, as well as in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Cases have also been confirmed in other neighboring Asian countries, such as Japan, Singapore, South Korean, Thailand, Vietnam, and as far as the U.S, India, and Saudi Arabia. 

    Deaths due to the 2019-nCOV have also risen to 26, and not all have pre-existing conditions.

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    To help contain the virus, the Chinese government shut down all transportation in Wuhan, as well as in six more cities. Celebrations for the Chinese New Year on January 25 have also been canceled. 

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    The World Health Organization (WHO) has not declared the Wuhan coronavirus as an international health emergency. Still, countries worldwide have issued travel restrictions.

    The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated their travel alert to Level 3, which advises citizens to avoid unnecessary travel to Wuhan.

    The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) had suspended “indefinitely until further notice” all flights between Wuhan and the Philippines, Inquirer reported.

    The Philippines does not have any confirmed Wuhan coronavirus cases yet (results of the tests of the first suspected case is still pending). The Department of Health (DOH) has appealed to the public to remain calm and vigilant.

    For more updates about the coronavirus outbreak, click here.

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