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While it is still early days in the novel coronavirus outbreak (2019-nCoV), Dr. Gregory C. Gray, MD, MPH, FIDSA, set aside the time to answer the Big Question based on what is known so far. He is an infectious disease epidemiologist and Professor at Duke University with three affiliations: The Division of Infectious Diseases in Duke University’s School of Medicine, the Duke Global Health Institute, and the Duke Nicholas School of the Environment. Much of his work has involved identifying risk factors for occupational diseases, particularly for respiratory virus infections.
What is the biggest question regarding the new coronavirus?
Where did the virus originate? Typically emerging pathogens come from animals. Hence, I am confident public health investigators in China are working hard to identify the source of this virus. Sometimes such viruses first move from wildlife to domestic animals where the virus is amplified and then the viruses eventually changes to move from domestic animals to infect humans. An example is the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus which is thought to have originated in bats and is now known to be amplified in camels and then occasionally infects humans.
Why is it significant?
If the 2019-nCoV is circulating in a domestic animals then we are likely to see continual exposures no matter how well we isolate 2019-nCoV infected patients and quarantine their close contacts.
Where is the answer likely to come from?
These data will require epidemiologic investigations at the human-animal interface in China.
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