Novel Coronavirus Identified in China
Hundreds of cases of the respiratory illness have been confirmed.
What is coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses, including everything from the common cold we fight off every year, to severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, for which Toronto held a massive benefit concert in 2003 that included Justin Timberlake and the Rolling Stones.
Coronaviruses incubate in animals, and a rare few make the jump to humans. SARS is believed to have originated in civet cats, while Middle East respiratory syndrome — MERS — started in a type of camel. These viruses can cause respiratory infection, pneumonia, kidney failure, and even death.
So what's going on?
On January 7, 2020, Chinese authorities identified a new strain of coronavirus in humans, dubbed 2019-nCoV. Since, over two dozen people have been confirmed dead, with hundreds of other infections reported in the Chinese province of Hubei. Cases have also been reported in Japan, South Korea, and the United States.
There's currently no vaccine for 2019-nCoV. China is acting to contain the outbreak, limiting the movements of some 20 million people, and effectively "sealing off" Hubei's capital city. Some US airports are conducting checks. While the World Health Organization does not consider the new virus a global emergency, it's working with China to move fast.
Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan's VIDO-InterVac — the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization - International Vaccine Centre — have been brought on board to help fight the virus. They've previously battled both SARS and MERS, and produced two coronavirus vaccines for cows and pigs.
Where do you fit in?
If you're interested in microbiology or immunology, you should check out these programs in immunology. These cutting-edge programs are dedicated to understanding the behaviour of bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms. With the right education, you could be on the front lines, protecting the vulnerable from the next global outbreak. You might even join VIDO-InterVac on your way to becoming a practicing pathologist or microbiologist.
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