In “Breathless,” David Quammen explores the predictable lead-up to the global Covid pandemic, and the frantic, belated attempts to stop it.
The ever-mutating virus always seems to be one step ahead of our best efforts to contain it. But scientists say there’s a way to change that.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a highly transmissible and pathogenic coronavirus that emerged in late 2019 and has caused a pandemic of acute respiratory disease, named ‘coronavirus disease 2019’ (COVID-19), which threatens human health and public safety. In this Review, we describe the basic virology of SARS-CoV-2, including genomic characteristics and receptor use, highlighting its key difference from previously known coronaviruses.
The currently available Covid-19 vaccines are injected into people’s arm muscles and are highly capable at combating the virus once people are infected. But they are not as successful at preventing people from getting infected to begin with. To do that, you ideally want to stop a virus from spreading right at the site where people get infected: the nasal cavity.
This coronavirus has also proved a wilier opponent than expected. Despite a relatively slow rate of mutation at the beginning of the pandemic, it soon evolved into variants that are more inherently contagious and better at evading immunity. With each major wave, “the virus has only gotten more transmissible,” says Ruth Karron, a vaccine researcher at Johns Hopkins.
What happens when you set biotechnologists loose without any practicality limits?
Four reasons: social distancing, seasonality, seroprevalence, and shots.
To understand when people with Covid-19 are most likely to be infectious, our team conducted a study which was recently published in The Lancet Microbe.
Flu and other seasonal ailments share symptoms with Covid. But there are some ways to help determine what’s wrong.
While there is nothing that can completely eliminate the risk if people chose to celebrate the holidays with others, the good news is that there are ways of making a gathering safer.
Many patients who are hospitalized for COVID-19 are discharged with symptoms such as those associated with a brain injury. But COVID-19 also appears to produce many other brain-related symptoms ranging from seizures to psychosis, a team reports in the Jan. 5 issue of the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia. The team, which included de Erausquin, says severe COVID-19 may even increase a person's risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
And what it lost in the process.
With implications for the transmission of diseases like COVID-19, researchers have found that ordinary conversation creates a conical, “jet-like” airflow that quickly carries a spray of tiny droplets from a speaker’s mouth across meters of an interior space.
COVID-19 has a transmission rate of 53 per cent once it makes through the front door of your home. Here's how to prepare.
Many countries have closed their borders to people leaving the UK due to the rapid spread within the country of a new variant of the coronavirus that might be more transmissible. Meanwhile, South Africa is also reporting the spread of another new variant. Here’s what you need to know.
Some researchers suspect chronic cases allow the virus to replicate over long periods of time and that certain new therapies may encourage it to mutate.
Your warm, dry home can be a hotbed for Covid-19 infections, but is a humidifier helpful and safe?
Experts on safer (and riskier) ways to see friends and family, keep kids busy, and give back — in a raging pandemic.
Covid-19 is evolving. Why now?
No one was prepared for the coronavirus pandemic.
The public certainly wasn’t. The US government wasn’t. Even the public health experts who had spent their entire careers anxiously preparing for a pandemic weren’t, in part because the basic mechanics of the coronavirus now known as SARS-CoV-2 defied expectations.
The coronavirus behind the pandemic presents some vexing dualities.
It’s dangerous enough that it dispatches patients to hospitals in droves and has killed more than 1.6 million people, but mild enough that most people shrug it off.
Once immunity is widespread in adults, the virus rampaging across the world will come to resemble the common cold, scientists predict.
Inside a Covid-19 support group, where a long-haul future is faced head-on.
SARS-CoV-2 is a wily virus, with mysterious origins and a powerful ability to infect and spread; ‘We underestimated it.’
Her experiences in the medical system, she reasons, are part of why people of color are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus. She says it is not just because they're more likely to have front-line jobs that expose them to the virus, and the underlying health conditions that can lead to a more serious COVID-19 infection.
"That is certainly part of it, but the other part is the lack of value people see in our lives," Monterroso wrote in a Twitter thread detailing her experience.
Can I eat at a restaurant? Can I go shopping? Can I hug my friends again? Experts weigh in.
With information about 2019-nCoV — and its risk of spreading — evolving by the hour, we’ve answered basic questions about the outbreak here. We’ll be updating this story as more information becomes available.
2019-nCoV isn't going to cut it long term.
Can they help doctors differentiate between the two respiratory illnesses, and accurately predict which patients will become severely ill?
The US’s coronavirus epidemic is among the worst. Here’s what you need to know.
Self-quarantine as a single person or a person who lives far from their significant other can be pretty lonely, especially while other folks spend their work-from-home hours snuggled up with the person they love. Still, it can be unnerving to be so close to someone who might’ve bumped into COVID-19 in the outside world. Considering it takes at least five days for the virus’s symptoms to show up, it’s tough to know if your spooning partner is infected, or if you could be putting them at risk.
There’s a new paper that a lot of people are talking about recently that presents a rather large unifying hypothesis about the effects of the coronavirus (and suggests some new modes of treatment as well). This is the “bradykinin hypothesis”, and before digging into it, t’s a 9-amino-acid peptide, and it’s got a ton of biological activity it might be worth a paragraph to talk about what bradykinin is.
In fact, other infectious diseases such as measles, tuberculosis, chickenpox, influenza, smallpox and SARS have all been shown to spread through heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.
No, a regular surgical mask will not help you steer clear of the virus.
Whether it's strange rashes on the toes or blood clots in the brain, the widespread ravages of COVID-19 have increasingly led researchers to focus on how the novel coronavirus sabotages the body's blood vessels.
Given the common modes of transmission of respiratory viruses, engaging in certain types of sexual activities may risk spreading the virus. However, expecting people to abstain from sex during times of isolation is unrealistic.
They may not be the most critical health questions. Yet they are definitely interesting.
More than a respiratory infection, Covid-19 wreaks havoc on many organs; inflammation and abnormal blood clotting are likely culprits.
China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, has promised drastic measures to contain the virus. The national government on Sunday banned the wildlife trade until the epidemic passes. The outbreak had drawn fresh attention to China’s animal markets, where the sale of exotic creatures has been linked to epidemiological risks.
For COVID–19, like most diseases, the worse your health before you get infected, the worse your chances of fighting off the virus.
Researchers know that certain chronic diseases – including cardiovascular, kidney, and lung diseases, as well as diabetes – all increase one’s risk of death from COVID-19.
With the coronavirus threatening to become a pandemic, health systems and telehealth vendors see this as an opportunity to bring connected health to the forefront - and reshape the future of healthcare.
Pregnant women are generally more susceptible to viruses that cause breathing problems (like the flu). Their immunity is lowered, their lungs are more compressed and they need more oxygen. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case with COVID-19. In an analysis of 147 women with COVID-19, only 8% had severe disease and 1% were in critical condition. That’s lower than the general population.
Most people infected with the coronavirus have only mild symptoms, or sometimes none at all. But in many thousands of patients who fall critically ill, Covid-19 is a disease of alarming complexity.
What follows is a summary, often in their own words, of what doctors have learnt about how Covid-19 attacks the human body, and what they still need to know.
As case numbers of COVID-19 continue to rise around the world, we are starting to see an increasing number of reports of neurological symptoms. Some studies report that over a third of patients show neurological symptoms.
As the crisis has unfolded, scientists have discovered more evidence about a strange and worrying feature of the coronavirus. While many people who become infected develop a cough, fever and loss of taste and smell, others have no symptoms at all and never realise they're carrying Covid-19.
The disease’s “long-haulers” have endured relentless waves of debilitating symptoms—and disbelief from doctors and friends.
This was supposed to be a time to try new things and find out where I’m supposed to be.
It’s more contagious, deadlier, sneakier, and more likely to cause chaos.
Humans have never been particularly good at eradicating entire viruses, and COVID-19 might not be any different.
From Chile to South Africa to New Zealand, countries report far lower numbers of influenza cases, which could be good news for the U.S. and Europe.
During the initial stages of the pandemic there was concern about surface transmission. However, latest research suggests that this is unlikely to be a major route of transmission as although SARS-CoV-2 can persist for days on inanimate surfaces, attempts to culture the virus from these surfaces were unsuccessful.
In stark terms, "the virus doesn't care" if you die, says Prof Lehner, "this is a hit and run virus".
A simple virus has brought life as we know it to a screeching halt.
We have faced viral threats before, including pandemics, yet the world does not shut down for every new infection or flu season.
So what is it about this coronavirus? What are the quirks of its biology that pose a unique threat to our bodies and our lives?
There are so many perplexing questions about COVID-19 but the one that seems to stump everyone is why some people are dropping dead when they get this virus and others are completely asymptomatic.
A preliminary report posted online claimed that a mutation had made the virus more transmissible. Geneticists say the evidence isn’t there.
Every healthcare worker should know, and sadly there are probably many that don’t, that PPE gear isn’t used this way. The masks they want us to place on the patient are loose fitting. The air patients breathe out will just go out the sides of the mask. If a patient is already infected, these masks will do next to nothing to prevent an airborne virus.
The use of virtual visits climbs as a way of safely treating patients and containing spread of the infection at hospitals, clinics and medical offices.
Severe fatigue, memory lapses, heart problems affect patients who weren’t that badly hit initially; ‘It’s been so long’.
Misconceptions about what can protect you are becoming just as contagious as the virus.
Give it to me straight. Is it time to panic? No. (Is that straightforward enough?)
Bats harbor a significantly higher proportion of zoonotic viruses than other mammals, according to a 2017 study. Experts think that's because bats can fly across large geographical ranges, transporting diseases as they go. That makes them an ideal host.
You van help end the pandemic in 30 days.
We asked a panel of infectious disease and public health experts to rate the risk of summer activities, from backyard gatherings, to a day at the pool, to sharing a vacation house with another household.
One big warning: Your personal risk depends on your age and health, the prevalence of the virus in your area, and the precautions you take during any of these activities.
We're getting a "better understanding of how these symptoms express in the general population and not necessarily in hospitalized patients, which is whom most of the earlier studies from China looked at. "So it's a bit of a bigger picture," says Charitini Stavropoulou...
“Most countries lack sufficient PPE to respond to a large scale event,” Rebmann says. “That puts health care workers at risk.”
How is nCoV different from a regular Pneumonia? There is a spectrum of clinical presentations of nCoV which can be mild, moderate, or severe illnesses. This includes pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome (severe condition that fills-up the lungs with fluid and could cause organ failure), sepsis (bacterial infection in blood), and septic shock (organ failure caused by sepsis). Pneumonia is just one of the presentations of nCoV.
Faced with a global pandemic, scientists are redirecting their research and redeploying their resources at a pace never seen before.
For the first time, researchers have directly visualized how speaking produces and expels droplets of saliva into the air. The smallest droplets can be inhaled by other people and are a primary way that respiratory infections like COVID-19 spread from person to person.
You are not a Hot Pocket, at least in one way. When you get infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus, you can’t just set a timer to then determine when exactly you will be ready. In this case, ready means fully recovered and ready to return to your normal activities, whatever “normal activities” happen to be these days with the pandemic.
Do masks work? It depends. Health professionals offer some tips on how to stay healthy while on the move.
No single solution will stop the virus’s spread, but combining different layers of public measures and personal actions can make a big difference.
Even if you avoid the conspiracy theories, tweeting through a global emergency is messy, context-free, and disorienting.
Widespread and frequent rapid antigen testing (public health screening to suppress outbreaks) is the best possible tool we have at our disposal today—and we are not using it.
Dispatches from the pandemic
Don’t panic about yourself. Do be concerned about global health.
A growing number of studies are raising concerns about the coronavirus’ long-term effects on the heart. Athletes especially need to heed the warnings.
When we asked our sources if they planned to dine inside a restaurant at any time, both answered: not in the near future. They do feel more comfortable with outdoor dining — although they both said they're putting it off for now because of fears of transmission.
We asked the experts to answer questions about all the places coronavirus lurks (or doesn’t). You’ll feel better after reading this.
In the early days, we furiously scrubbed, afraid we could get sick from the virus lingering on objects and surfaces. What do we know now?
New data suggests that children aren’t immune to the new coronavirus. That could have huge implications for efforts to contain local outbreaks.
Early on, patients with both mild and severe Covid-19 say they can’t breathe. Now, after recovering from the infection, some of them say they can’t think.
Even people who were never sick enough to go to a hospital, much less lie in an ICU bed with a ventilator, report feeling something as ill-defined as “Covid fog” or as frightening as numbed limbs. They’re unable to carry on with their lives, exhausted by crossing the street, fumbling for words, or laid low by depression, anxiety, or PTSD.
Our “hidden enemy,” in plain sight.
My grandfather’s time was not up. His death should be treated as the tragedy it is.
A study finds 50 to 85 times as many infections as known cases—meaning a far lower fatality rate.
Let’s start with the facts. I reached out to Stanford Medicine to try to understand the goals of its antibody test, and how it relates to Hanson’s fall 2019 theory. The short answer on the latter is that it doesn’t. “Our research does not suggest that the virus was here that early,” says Lisa Kim of Stanford’s media relations team.
Neither does anyone else’s, it appears. “There is zero probability [SARS-CoV-2] was circulating in fall 2019,” tweeted Trevor Bedford, a computational biologist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center who has been tracking SARS-CoV-2’s genetic code as it has spread.
IDSA is keeping members and the public up to date on the latest novel coronavirus -- 2019-nCoV --developments with this resource page providing links to guidance from government health authorities and the World Health Organization, journal articles and more.
How the President of the United States is treated for COVID-19 will likely be very different from how the 7 million-plus other Americans who have contracted the disease were taken care of, at least in some ways. To start, before Trump was hospitalized, his physician Sean Conley revealed that the President received an experimental drug duo from Regeneron of so-called monoclonal antibodies.
Parallels drawn with early data on hydroxychloroquine.
There is new evidence that some children may become very sick, and we are beginning to learn more about who may be most at risk and what parents need to watch for.
Immunologists had expected that if the immune response generated after an initial infection could not prevent a second case, then it should at least stave off more severe illness.
In their latest Science paper, the researchers found that the autoantibodies drive this cycle of inflammation and clotting. The autoantibodies found in the COVID-19 patients are the same ones doctors find in patients with an autoimmune disease called antiphospholipid syndrome, in which antibodies seed clots by attracting clotting factors that eventually block blood flow.
The “before times” seem like a decade ago, don’t they? Those carefree days when hugging friends and shaking hands wasn’t verboten, when we didn’t have to reach for a mask before leaving our homes, or forage for supplies of hand sanitizer. Oh, for the days when social distancing wasn’t part of our vernacular.
China was extraordinarily efficient and open in identifying the virus, a new strain of coronavirus, within just over a week. Chinese scientists sequenced the virus’s genetic code and, within days, shared that information with the world.
Much remains unknown and mysterious, but these are some of the things we’re pretty sure of after half a year of this pandemic.
What you need to know to assess the pros, cons and potential complications of a trip far from home.
A guide to staying safe this summer
So have death rates dropped because of improvements in treatments? Or is it because of the change in who's getting sick?
Doctors believe many people are fighting Covid symptoms long-term, but testing inconsistencies complicate the picture
No matter what happens now, the virus will continue to circulate around the world.
A small study found coronavirus in semen—but this doesn’t necessarily mean the virus can be sexually transmitted.
The fact is, influenza is an illness that is far more deadly but also far more familiar to us. The current coronavirus outbreak, which originated in China, serves as a surrogate for a good deal of xenophobia and fear of the country itself.
From a sniffle or cough that feels like allergies to severe body aches and crippling fatigue, the symptoms of coronavirus can be unpredictable from head to toe.
New diseases are mirrors that reflect how a society works—and where it fails.
Early trials show signaling cells eliminate the virus, calm the immune response and repair tissue damage.
The viral lineage leading to SARS-CoV-2 has likely been around for the past 40 to 70 years in bats.
Bradykinin storms are the hottest new hypothesis for why Covid-19 can wreak havoc on the body.
Doctors don’t believe these people are contagious months after infection. In a few cases, patients do still test positive for the disease, but doctors think those tests are likely picking up dead traces of virus.
“For many diseases, it can take years before we fully characterize the different ways that it affects people,” said nephrologist Dan Negoianu of Penn Medicine. “Even now, we are still very early in the process of understanding this disease.”
And if there is one thing we can definitively state, it’s that this virus is much, much less likely to spread outdoors than in.
Your immune system is like a beautifully complex orchestra. It plays two movements.
When we get sick we trust our immune system to protect us, but what happens when that system goes awry and ends up killing patients? COVID-19 is shedding new light on how viruses can kick some patient’s immune system into overdrive to deadly effect in what is known as a cytokine storm syndrome.
For now, there are more questions than answers.
Coronaviruses are a relatively broad family of viruses named for the spikes that come out of a virus particle. Under a microscope, they look like a crown, or a halo — like the sun’s corona.
Most people who get sick from the coronavirus won’t be going to the hospital. Here’s what doctors say you need to be ready at home.
Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen.
Older people and people with chronic illness are at greater risk, and how we respond to the threat affects everyone.
The novel coronavirus causing COVID-19 seems to hit some people harder than others, with some people experiencing only mild symptoms and others being hospitalized and requiring ventilation. Though scientists at first thought age was the dominant factor, with young people avoiding the worst outcomes, new research has revealed a suite of features impacting disease severity.
But some people don’t even get symptoms. Recent studies suggest as many as 80% or more of those infected are “silent carriers”, showing no or very mild symptoms.
It seems children and young, healthy people are more likely to be asymptomatic.
A controversial plan could get us a vaccine sooner.
COVID-19 is proving to be a disease of the immune system. This could, in theory, be controlled.
COVID-19 is much less severe in children, and it could have to do with a child’s still-developing immune system.
A guide to making sense of a problem that is now too big for any one person to fully comprehend.
Doctors answer questions about quarantining, getting the vaccine and resuming daily activities.
These days, every cough, sneeze or headache makes you wonder: Could it be Covid-19? Medical experts are viewing Covid-19 as a multi-organ disease that can affect the body from head to toe and everywhere in between. Here’s a guide to help you understand the symptoms.
But however simply we want the pandemic to speak to us, invariably it speaks instead in tongues, inviting interpretation and contestation — some of it partisan, some of it principled, some of it self-interested.
Even as the Omicron wave spikes, some outside experts believe that the time has come for Anthony Fauci and the White House to declare a new phase in the pandemic.
New Zealand has avoided community transmission, even though an Australian visitor tested positive for the delta variant which dominates Australia’s latest COVID-19 outbreaks.
Case counts ‘don’t reflect what they used to’, experts argue, as data suggests Omicron is less severe but more contagious.
Covid-19 has brought together biomedical technologies that will transform human health.
The CDC claims to be ‘following the science,’ but its advice suggests it’s still paralyzed by fear.
Steps to take to protect your family from Covid-19, RSV, and flu..
Delta won’t be the last variant. What will the next ones bring?
The novel coronavirus causing COVID-19 seems to hit some people harder than others, with some people experiencing only mild symptoms and others being hospitalized and requiring ventilation. Though scientists at first thought age was the dominant factor, with young people avoiding the worst outcomes, new research has revealed a suite of features impacting disease severity. These influences could explain why some perfectly healthy 20-year-old with the disease is in dire straits, while an older 70-year-old dodges the need for critical interventions.
More people may have COVID than official counts suggest. But there's an easy way to figure out if there's a surge.
The question of viral resistance has perplexed Mayana Zatz, a University of São Paulo genetics professor, for years, beginning with exploring the clinical variability of genetic diseases in patients who carried the same pathogenic mutation. She began with neuromuscular disorders like Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and then expanded to exploring why the Zika virus caused severe brain damage in some newborns while others were healthy.
Experts hope the new COVID vaccine, which uses older biotechnology, could help the unvaccinated come around.
... there are still many mysteries about the virus and the pandemic it caused. They range from the technical — what role do autoantibodies play in long Covid? Can a pan-coronavirus vaccine actually be developed? — to the philosophical, such as how can we rebuild trust in our institutions and each other? Debate still festers, too, over the virus’s origins, despite recent studies adding evidence that it spilled over from wildlife.
But the taming of the coronavirus conceals failures in public health
Unlike tests that detect bits of SARS-CoV-2 or antibodies to it, the new test, called T-Detect COVID, looks for signals of past infections in the body’s adaptive immune system — in particular, the T cells that help the body remember what its viral enemies look like. Developed by Seattle-based Adaptive Biotechnologies, it is the first test of its kind.
This test could show how many people have really had COVID-19, as well as information on how long immunity lasts and how well vaccines are working. A T cell test for COVID may help provide a retroactive diagnosis for people who may be suffering the long-term effects of SARS-CoV-2 — and with it, a sense of clarity and closure.
At this point in time, there does not appear to be any relationship between blood type and COVID-19–related severity of illness or mortality. Current literature does not support blood type as part of a predictive model of viral illness or mortality, and ABO/Rh screening should not be used as a triage mechanism.
The NBA and NFL generated rich data throughout the pandemic—and changed the way researchers thought about the coronavirus.
After nearly two years of pandemic, figuring out what you’re supposed to do after receiving a positive test result is still tricky, and varying vaccination status among the population makes the questions more complex.
Neurological symptoms might arise from multiple causes. But does the virus even get into neurons?
The new coronavirus is not an equal-opportunity killer: Being elderly and having other illnesses, for instance, greatly increases the risk of dying from the disease the virus causes, Covid-19. It’s also possible being male could put you at increased risk.
AS COVID-19 CONTINUES to run its course, the likeliest long-term outcome is that the virus SARS-CoV-2 becomes endemic in large swaths of the world, constantly circulating among the human population but causing fewer cases of severe disease. Eventually—years or even decades in the future—COVID-19 could transition into a mild childhood illness, like the four endemic human coronaviruses that contribute to the common cold.
As infections with severe acute respiratory distress syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) continue to increase, there has been a concurrent increase in news and data, both accurate and inaccurate. Therefore, we have undertaken a review of a considerable amount of this information, and attempted to clarify some of the most recurrent misconceptions.
Here’s what we don’t know about the coronavirus — and why it really matters.
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Supervising Editor: Shahriar Zehtabchi, MD
This article was published in collaboration with MDCalc
Johns Hopkins experts in global public health, infectious disease, and emergency preparedness have been at the forefront of the international response to COVID-19. This website is a resource to help advance the understanding of the virus, inform the public, and brief policymakers in order to guide a response, improve care, and save lives.
Join millions of individuals sharing how they feel to combat the continued spread of the virus in communities across the country. Together we can beat the disease and get through this crisis.
Ongoing coverage of COVID-19.
The COVID Tracking Project collects information from 50 US states and the District of Columbia to provide the most comprehensive testing data we can collect for the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. We attempt to include positive and negative results, pending tests, and total people tested for each state or district currently reporting that data.
The COVID-19 Prevention Network (CoVPN) was formed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the US National Institutes of Health to respond to the global pandemic. The CoVPN will work to develop and conduct studies to ensure rapid and thorough evaluation of US government-sponsored COVID-19 vaccines and monoclonal antibodies for the prevention of COVID-19 disease.
Empowering frontline workers and the planet's health.
Get information on coronavirus testing near you.
FasterCures, a center of the Milken Institute, is currently tracking the development of treatments and vaccines for COVID-19 (coronavirus). This tracker contains an aggregation of publicly-available information from validated sources.
FasterCures, a center of the Milken Institute, is currently tracking the development of treatments and vaccines for COVID-19 (coronavirus). This tracker contains an aggregation of publicly-available information from validated sources.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is closely monitoring an outbreak caused by a novel (new) coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.
On this website you can find information and guidance from WHO regarding the current outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that was first reported from Wuhan, China, on 31 December 2019. Please visit this page for daily updates.
A world view of the coronavirus pandemic
Get the latest news and updates on the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Everything you need to know about the global outbreak.
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The Atlantic’s guide to understanding COVID-19.