New Coronavirus Outbreak In China Reveals the Virus May Be Mutating

Chinese doctors say they are now seeing the coronavirus manifest differently among patients part of this new cluster of cases in the northeast region of the country. One of the nation’s top critical care doctors, Qiu Haibo, told state television that patients found in the provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang are appearing to carry the virus for a longer period of time, and are taking longer to test negative. In addition, they are taking longer than the typical one-to-two weeks to develop symptoms after infection, unlike what was first observed in Wuhan. This delayed onset of symptoms is, therefore, making it harder for them to catch the cases before they spread.

Qiu said that doctors in the northeast have observed that their patients have mostly developed damage in their lungs, compared to the patients in Wuhan; who suffered multi-organ damage, mostly to the heart, kidney, and gut. “The longer period during which infected patients show no symptoms has created clusters of family infections,” Qiu explained. Over the past two weeks, since this second outbreak started, 46 cases have been reported, across three cities, in two different provinces. This has led Chinese authorities to renew lockdown measures for approximately 100 million people.

To actually conclude the virus is changing though, “very clear evidence” is needed, according to Keiji Fukuda, director, and clinical professor at the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health. However, Fukuda says, “many mutations lead to no discernible changes at all.” Scientists do not fully understand if the differences that doctors in China are seeing are due to the fact that they’re able to observe patients more thoroughly and from an earlier stage this time around.

Wu Anhua, Chinese senior infectious disease doctor, cautions, “People should not assume the peak has passed or let down their guard. It’s totally possible that the epidemic will last for a long time.”

Coronavirus Mutation

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