Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds that include diarrhea in cows and pigs, and upper respiratory disease in chickens. In humans, the virus causes respiratory infections, which are often mild, but in rare cases are potentially lethal.
There are no vaccines or antiviral drugs that are approved for prevention or treatment.
Coronaviruses were discovered in the 1960s; the earliest ones discovered were infectious bronchitis virus in chickens and 2 viruses from the nasal cavities of human patients with the common cold that were subsequently named human coronavirus 229E and human coronavirus OC43.
Other members of this family have since been identified, including SARS-CoV in 2003, HCoV NL63 in 2004, HKU1 in 2005, MERS-CoV in 2012, and 2019-nCoV in 2019; most of these have been involved in serious respiratory tract infections
On 31 December 2019, a new strain of coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, was reported in Wuhan, China. By 24 January 2020, 25 deaths have been reported and 547 confirmed cases.
The Wuhan strain has been identified as a new/novel strain of β CoV from group 2B with an ~70% genetic similarity to the SARS-CoV, the new strain has been named 2019-nCoV by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The virus was suspected to have originated in snakes, but many leading researchers disagree with this conclusion.