Since a mysterious illness first appeared in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December, there have been few hard facts about a virus that has now spread to 18 nations, including the United States.
On Tuesday, U.S. health officials shared new insights about the virus at a Washington D.C. press conference. There is a race to find answers to the outbreak — before it finds us.
Q: How is coronavirus diagnosed?
A: There’s a sophisticated new test called Reverse Transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR), which measures the amount of viral RNA, a chain of cells that carry genetic information, in a patient’s sputum, serum or blood. That’s why all samples are being shipped to Atlanta and tested at the Centers for Disease Control labs.
Once the test is perfected and standardized, it will be released to states. Meanwhile, experts are now trying to build a test that is quicker, easier and cheaper — something like an HIV test, for instance, that can detect simple antibodies.
Q: How deadly is it?
A: About 106 of 4,500 patients have died in China — a 2.3% mortality rate. About 17% of total cases are severely ill, according to Chinese authorities.
But the true course of the illness could be…
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