CHINA: Scientists in China who studied nose and throat swabs from 18 patients infected with the new coronavirus (COVID-19) say it behaves much more like influenza than other closely related viruses, suggesting it may spread even more easily than previously believed.
In at least one case, the virus was present even though the patient had no symptoms, confirming concerns that asymptomatic patients could also spread the disease.
As quoted by Reuters on the New England Journal of Medicine, new evidence that COVID-19, which has killed more than 2,000 people mostly in China, is not like its closely-related coronavirus cousins.
Unlike Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which causes infections deep in the lower respiratory tract that can result in pneumonia, COVID-19 appears to inhabit both the upper and lower respiratory tracts. That would make it not only capable of causing severe pneumonia, but of spreading easily like flu or the common cold.
Researchers in Guangdong province monitored the amount of coronavirus in the 18 patients. One of them, who had moderate levels of the virus in their nose and throat, never had any disease symptoms. Among the 17 symptomatic patients, the team found levels of the virus increased soon after symptoms first appeared, with higher amounts of virus present in the nose than in the throats, a pattern more similar to influenza than SARS.
The researchers said their findings add to reports that the virus can be transmitted early in the course of the infection, and suggest that controlling the virus will require an approach different from what worked with SARS, which primarily involved controlling its spread in a hospital setting.