Deadly coronavirus will FINALLY get a name 'within days'

The coronavirus sweeping through China and spreading across the world could be about to get an official name, scientists say.

Although the subject of news articles, social media posts and politicial discussioins throughout the past month, the virus has not yet got an approved name.

It has been dubbed 2019-nCoV, which means it is a novel (new) type of coronavirus discovered in 2019, but this is just a temporary placeholder.

Other unofficial, potentially inaccurate, names for it have emerged, including the China coronavirus, Wuhan coronavirus and even 'snake flu'.

But scientists at the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) say they have chosen a name for the bug and submitted it for official approval.

The researchers have not revealed the name they settled on but say it could be announced within days.

It must not contain geography, human names or cultural references, they said, to avoid abusive backlash or potential racism, and it should avoid animal or food names because they could be inaccurate.

The news of the approaching naming comes as the total number of people infected worldwide has risen to more than 28,000 and 565 are now dead.

Coronaviruses are so named because their structure has jagged edges which look like a royal crown – corona is crown in Latin (Pictured, an illustration of the 2019-nCoV released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Coronaviruses are so named because their structure has jagged edges which look like a royal crown – corona is crown in Latin (Pictured, an illustration of the 2019-nCoV released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

'It has to roll off the tongue a little faster than the other names out there,' Dr Benjamin Neuman, a Texas A&M University researcher, told the BBC.

The other two viruses which are most similar to the coronavirus are SARS and MERS.

These are abbreviations of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.

It is likely that the virus which originated in Wuhan will follow a similar line – although naming it after the region, as MERS was, would likely not be approved.

What do we know about the Wuhan coronavirus? 

Someone who is infected with the Wuhan coronavirus can spread it with just a simple cough or a sneeze, scientists say.

At least 565 people with the virus are now confirmed to have died and more than 28,200 have been infected in at least 28 countries and regions. But experts predict the true number of people with the disease could be 100,000, or even as high as 350,000 in Wuhan alone, as they warn it may kill as many as two in 100 cases.  Here's what we know so far:

What is the Wuhan coronavirus? 

A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. Viruses break into cells inside their host and use them to reproduce itself and disrupt the body's normal functions. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word 'corona', which means crown, because they are encased by a spiked shell which resembles a royal crown.

HOW CHINA'S CORONAVIRUS HAS SPREAD

The vast majority of confirmed infections of the Wuhan coronavirus have been diagnosed in China.

But more than 25 countries or territories outside of the mainland have also declared infections: 

Belgium: 1 case, first case February 4  Spain: 1 case, first case January 31  Sweden: 1 case, first case January 31  Russia: 2 cases, first case January 31  UK: 2 cases, first case January 31  India: 3 cases, first case January 30  Philippines: 3 cases, first case January 30  Italy: 2 cases, first case January 30 Finland: 1 case, first case January 29 United Arab Emirates: 5 cases, first case January 29  Germany: 12 cases, first case Jan 27 Sri Lanka: 1 case, first case Jan 27 Cambodia: 1 case, first case Jan 27 Canada: 5 cases, first case Jan 25 Australia: 14 cases, first case Jan 25 Malaysia: 12 cases, first case Jan 25 France: 6 cases, first case January 24 Nepal: 1 case, first case January 24 Vietnam: 10 cases, first case Jan 24 Singapore: 28 cases, first case January 23 Macau: 10 cases, first case Jan 22 Hong Kong: 21 cases, first case January 22  Taiwan: 11 cases, first case Jan 21  USA: 12 cases, first case January 20 South Korea: 23 cases, first case January 20 Japan: 45 cases, first case January 16 Thailand: 25 cases, first case Jan 13

The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It is currently named 2019-nCoV, and does not have a more detailed name because so little is known about it.

Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: 'Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals. 

'Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses). 

'Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known.' 

The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started seeing infections on December 31.

By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.

The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000.

Just a week after that, there had been more than 800 confirmed cases and those same scientists estimated that some 4,000 – possibly 9,700 – were infected in Wuhan alone. By that point, 26 people had died. 

By January 27, more than 2,800 people were confirmed to have been infected, 81 had died, and estimates of the total number of cases ranged from 100,000 to 350,000 in Wuhan alone.

By January 29, the number of deaths had risen to 132 and cases were in excess of 6,000.  

Where does the virus come from?

According to scientists, the virus has almost certainly come from bats. Coronaviruses in general tend to originate in animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to have originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.

The first cases of the virus in Wuhan came from people visiting or working in a live animal market in the city, which has since been closed down for investigation.

Although the market is officially a seafood market, other dead and living animals were being sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat. 

A study by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, published in February 2020 in the scientific journal Nature, found that the genetic make-up virus samples found in patients in China is 96 per cent similar to a coronavirus they found in bats.

There may have been an animal which acted as a middle-man, contracting it from a bat before then transmitting it to a human, researchers suggested, although details of this are less clear.

Dr Michael Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, was not involved with the research but said: 'The discovery

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