A nurse checks the temperature of a visitor as part of the coronavirus screening procedure at a hospital in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on February 5 ‘To put it bluntly: we’re shadow boxing.’ These were the words of the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, one week after the WHO declared the novel coronavirus to be an international public health emergency.
There is much we still don’t know about the virus, he explained. Exactly how easily it is transmitted, how severe its impact on health might be, and even its precise origin. Animals yes, but which ones, scientists are not yet sure.
Those same scientists will tell you this uncertainty is hardly a surprise. This is a brand-new virus, never seen in humans before. It only came to notice a few short weeks ago. Its genome was sequenced within a few days, at a speed described by one virus expert as “unprecedented and completely unbelievable”. Sequencing the SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, virus took months.
But that step alone does not bring clarity about what exactly this virus is, let alone effective treatments or vaccines. Those will take rigorous research, multiple clinical trials, lots of money, and lots of time.
And while we wait, an anxious world fills the knowledge vacuum with rumour, and misinformation. Do you have questions about the coronavirus? Find out more in our Inside Geneva coronavirus special podcast.
Masks have sold out in many Swiss pharmacies. These Chinese visitors, pictured in front of […]