Daily updates on the emerging novel coronavirus from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
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February 11, 2020

WHO ANNOUNCES OFFICIAL DISEASE NAME The disease caused by 2019-nCoV has been given an official name: COVID-19 . The name was chosen in accordance with WHO guidance, in which the name should not refer to a “geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people” as stated by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. 

OFFICIAL VIRUS NAMED International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses  has named the virus previously known as 2019-nCoV as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2.) The Coronavirus Study Group has deemed the virus to be a sister virus of the SARS-CoVs.

EPI UPDATES The Chinese National Health Commission reports 2,478 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 42,638 cases in mainland China. There are 42 cases in Hong Kong, 10 in Macao, and 18 cases in Taiwan. There have been 1,016 deaths and 3,996 patients discharged, and 7,333 are in serious condition. There are also 21,675 suspected cases;, 187,728 individuals under medical observation; and 428,438 identified as having close contact with infected patients.

According to the WHO situation report, there are 319 cases outside of mainland China, 12 of which are newly confirmed. No new countries reporting cases in the past 24 hours. 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed a 13th case of COVID-19 in San Diego, California in a person evacuated from Wuhan and under federal quarantine. The patient was one of four who initially tested negative for COVID-19 and was discharged to return to the quarantine facility. Additional tests conducted by CDC found that the patient was in fact positive and confirmed as a case of COVID-19. The individual has been readmitted to UC San Diego Health where they are being safely isolated and receiving medical care. It has been emphasized that a case in a person returning from Wuhan is not to be unexpected given the high risk of infection in people coming from this area. 

Six additional cases related to a British traveler who stayed at a ski chalet in the Alps have been confirmed, 4 in the UK and 2 in France. There have now been 11 cases reported relating to this transmission event. The UK is reporting that all 4 cases had contact with the case and that transmission occurred in France. 

EPIDEMIC CONTROL EFFORTS IN CHINA Epidemic containment efforts have been expanded beyond Hubei Province in China. Beijing will set up checkpoints at the entries and exits to residential communities; individuals will be required to wear masks and will have their temperatures checked. The regulations will be enforced under penalty of law and individuals who attempt to conceal information will be held accountable. Public spaces including entertainment venues will be closed. Shanghai is implementing travel control efforts and registration for people entering the city, as well as temperature monitoring. 

CLINICAL AND EPIDEMIOLOGICAL FINDINGS Scientists led by Nan-shan Zhong released a preprint yesterday describing the clinical and demographic characteristics of 1,099 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases in China. Key findings include: (1) children continue to be underrepresented, with less than 1% of the case series less than 15 years of age; (2) over one third of patients required oxygen therapy; (3) the incubation period was found to be 3 days, shorter than some other estimates; (4) underlying health conditions are more common in cases with an adverse outcome. Our subscribers are encouraged to read the paper in full, as it is extensively detailed.

LEVERAGING TECHNOLOGY TO SUPPORT OUTBREAK RESPONSE Haptik, a virtual assistance company, has launched a bot for WhatsApp, a platform with heavy use both China and internationally. The bot will respond to frequently asked questions about COVID-19. In China, a mobile app has been launched in which individuals can inquire about contacts with COVID-19 infection. The app will serve as a “close contact detector”. Individuals can register by scanning a QR code with their name and identification information. They will be informed if they have had close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and will receive guidance on self isolation. 

CDC GUIDANCE FOR SHIPS MANAGING COVID-19 The US CDC has released interim guidance for ships on the management of COVID-19. The guidance provides information on detecting and clinically managing suspected infections, and strategies to prevent the spread of infection on board. In other news, a total of 135 of the 439 people tested for COVID-19 on the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship have been confirmed positive. It was recently announced that elderly passengers and those with chronic health conditions will be permitted to disembark the ship. 

WHO EFFORTS An international team of technical experts is arriving in China on behalf of the World Health Organization. The team is led by Bruce Aylward MD, MPH, an epidemiologist from Canada with extensive experience in public health emergency response. The team brings expertise in areas such as clinical management, risk communication, vaccine and therapeutic development, animal health, and virology and will support Chinese outbreak response efforts. 

Beginning today, a global research and innovation forum has been convened to discuss priorities for research and innovation to manage the COVID-19 outbreak. Scientists, teams of regulatory experts, bioethicists, and funders will attend the forum to bolster coordinated efforts needed to support research and innovation. 

GENOME COMPOSITION AND DIVERGENCE A paper published in Cell Host & Microbe indicates that 2019-nCoV is more closely related in terms of whole genome sequence to SARS-like bat CoV than it is to SARS-CoV. The results identify 380 amino acid substitutions between the viruses, noting that these mutations do not affect the receptor binding motifs interacting the the ACE2 protein in humans. The paper concludes that the amino acid substitutions may shed light on potential differences in transmission and host range between 2019-nCoV and SARS-CoV.