We can’t say for sure whether we’re at the beginning of a HCoV-EMC pandemic, or at the end of a minor outbreak, or experiencing something in between. But scientists are not waiting around until the virus has finished traveling down whatever path it will take. They’re working hard to figure out the biology of the virus, and they’re also trying to figure out its history. How it got into 15 people over the past 9 months might give us a hint as to what it may do in the future.
Virologists I’ve spoken to favor a phenomenon known as “viral chatter.” Viruses don’t just barge across the species barrier in one great rush. They tentatively make incursions–many of them spread across years. The SARS virus, for example, infected a few people before becoming a massive epidemic in 2003. During these incursions, animal viruses may acquire mutations that gradually prepare them to become good at spreading from person to person.
The Loom: http://goo.gl/mPmzq
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