The novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has surpassed the 2002 SARS pandemic, with nearly 10,000 infections worldwide. The killer pathogen has so far targeted people above the age of 41 but mutations could make the pathogen more susceptible to children.
According to Dr Paweł Grzesiowski from the Medical Centre of Postgraduate Education in Warsaw, Poland, there is no certainty in how the virus will behave.
He told the Polish Times: “The latest publication, literally from yesterday, a description of the first 425 cases indicates the average age of the patients is 59, people mainly die after the age of 60 and with accompanying diseases, and most odd of all, children under the age of 15 do not get sick at all.
“But we still lack more detailed information. In the first weeks, the ill were mainly men who were likely infected at the infamous Wuhan market.
“So this is not a group that is representative of the whole population that is currently ill.
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“Current data speaks of about 60 percent being male. On Monday there has also been news about a nine-month-old baby being under observation in Beijing.
“We don’t know if these are some sort of clues that might suggest this is an adults’ disease but it does point towards their clear dominance.
“It is also hard to tell if the virus will attack children when it escapes the original outbreak in Wuhan and its surroundings, because there are probably no immunological contraindications, so to speak, that this virus would attack children.”
The novel coronavirus first appeared in China’s Wuhan City, Hubei Province, where it was traced to a busy seafood market.
Although the exact source of the infection has not been identified yet, the novel coronavirus was likely contracted from animals carrying the pathogen.
Scientists suspect the virus may have been carried by bats, fish or snakes – all of which are delicacies in China.
We can’t predict how many new mutations will arise, which ones will be dangerous
The coronavirus family is zoonotic, meaning it can spread between animals and humans.
Symptoms of infection begin with a cough and fever but can develop into pneumonia and kidney failure if left untreated.
After the outbreak began in China, the disease has spread far beyond the country’s borders and infections have been confirmed in the UK.
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Malaysia, South Korea, the UAE, Italy, Finland and others.
The novel coronavirus is closely related to the pathogens that caused the 2002 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in 2012.
But Dr Grzesiowski warned the virus threatens to mutate in the coming days and there is no way to predict what the results might be.
He said: “The virus does not resemble humans in any way, it is not a complete organism, it does not have organs.
“A change in how humans look or act takes place over thousands of years.
“A virus mutates randomly and it lasts, as we can see, much, much shorter.
“It has genes that are always on the move – a virus is a small particle of genetic material.
“Because of this, whenever it replicates, there might be a random change in the sequence of the genetics, which in turn, leads to a mutation that could create a whole new virus.
“Visually, it can be said that a virus is a splinter of genetic material that is constantly moving and in a certain variability.
“We can’t predict how many new mutations will arise, which ones will be dangerous – it’s a continuous process in biology.”