Coronavirus could have incubation period of 24 days — 10 days longer than previously thought

Research says coronavirus ‘spreads rapidly by human-to-human transmission’

Kate Ng
Monday 10 February 2020 12:12
Britons taken to Milton Keynes for coronavirus quarantine

Medical researchers in China have found the incubation period for coronavirus ranges up to 24 days — 10 days longer than experts previously thought.

The research was co-authored by Dr Zhong Nanshan, who discovered the SARS coronavirus in 2003 and has been appointed as a leading advisor in managing the current coronavirus crisis.

Current advice from health organisations and ministries say the virus’ incubation period is as long as 14 days, based on the incubation period of previous MERS viruses.

Public Health England and the Department of Health and Social Care has urged anyone travelling from specific countries, including China, to quarantine themselves at home for 14 days.

The findings, which have not yet been peer reviewed, were published on Sunday and titled ‘Clinical characteristics of 2019 novel coronavirus infection in China’.

Researchers extracted data from 1,099 coronavirus patients from 522 hospitals in 31 provinces in China.

They found only 1.18 per cent of patients “had a direct contact with wildlife”. The majority of the patients had contracted the virus from being in contact with people from Wuhan, where the centre of the outbreak is.

More than 80 percent of patients developed lymphopenia, which is a state where a specific white blood cell that is part of the body’s first-line defence against diseases is reduced.

Lymphopenia is commonly caused by infections and the flu, and usually recovers on its own after the patient recovers.

The 55 patients observed in the study were admitted into the intensive care unit, some with severe pneumonia as a result of the virus. Of those patients, 15 died.

The research concluded that the virus “spreads rapidly by human-to-human transmission” and its severity “predict poor clinical outcomes”.

The findings come as China reported a rise in new virus cases on Monday, with the mainland death toll rising by 97 in just 24 hours and 3,062 new cases reported.

The sudden increase in cases broke a string of daily declines that a government spokesman said on Sunday was proof that containment measures were proving successful.

In the UK, four new cases of coronavirus infections were confirmed on Monday, bringing the total number of cases up to eight.

All four of the newly infected people were in contact with a previously confirmed UK case of a businessman who travelled from Singapore to France and then to the UK.

The UK’s chief medical officer professor Chris Witty said the virus was passed between the infected people in France, and Public Health England is working to trace people who may have been in close contact with them.

The British government declared the virus a “serious and imminent threat to public health” and raised the risk to the public from low to moderate.

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