Nearly 4 months ago, China confirmed the existence of the novel coronavirus. The virus has now infected more than 2.4 million people globally.
Scientific knowledge of the virus has since evolved, including understanding of how it infects people and spreads among populations.
The latest research suggests the first case of the coronavirus appeared in November, has disproved the theory that the virus came from snakes, and shown the virus spreads via droplets.
Here are 11 of the biggest things that doctors, scientists, and public-health experts have come to realize about the virus.
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Since the novel coronavirus was first identified nearly 4 months ago, the world has come a long way in understanding how the virus infects people and how it spreads among populations.
Over 2.43 million people around the world have contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and there are more than 1.6 million active cases.
However, ongoing research on and about these patients has revealed that many of our best original assumptions about the virus weren’t fully accurate — or in some cases misguided.
After China confirmed the first case of the mysterious “pneumonia-like” illness at the end of December, for example, it turned out someone else likely started spreading it there in November. Symptoms of COVID-19 also turned out to be far more expansive and peculiar than anyone initially realized. Even our understanding of how the virus transmits itself from one person to the next has changed.
Here are all of the ways that what we know about the virus has changed over the course of the pandemic.
The first infection appeared to happen in Wuhan in December. However, China said ‘patient zero’ likely appeared in mid-November.
China officially confirmed the first case of the new coronavirus on December 31.
But according to Chinese government data reviewed by the South China Morning Post, the first case of the novel coronavirus emerged on November 17.
The identity of the person has not been confirmed, but it appears to be a 55-year-old from the Hubei province, the Post wrote.
Theories that the virus arrived in the US during the fall, however, are easily disprovable.
Originally, the virus was linked to the Huanan wholesale seafood market in Wuhan, where it was thought to have jumped from an exotic animal product to a person. That no longer appears to be the case.
Felix Wong/South China Morning Post/Getty
At many wet markets, meat, poultry, and seafood are sold alongside live animals for consumption. The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market was closed on January 1, the day after China officially confirmed the first case of the novel coronavirus. Wuhan authorities banned the trade of live animals at all wet markets there soon after.
In February, China announced a national ban on the buying, selling, and transportation of wild animals in markets, restaurants, and online marketplaces across the country.
However, a group of Chinese scientists published a report at the end of January that found that out of the first 41 cases of the virus in Wuhan, China, only 13 were connected to the wet market — indicating that it was not the site of the virus’ first infection.
Now it seems that the popular market, where hundreds of people gather in close proximity, might have been the site of a key spreading event by an infected person.
More research has revealed that the virus likely jumped from a bat to humans through an intermediary animal, such as a pangolin or a civet cat.
Themba Hadebe/AP Photo
The virus that caused the SARS coronavirus outbreak, which killed 774 people in the early 2000s, jumped from bats to civets to people.
Pangolins — an endangered, anteater-like mammal — are another candidate for intermediary species.
A group of researchers from South China Agricultural University found that samples from coronavirus patients were a 99% match to samples of the virus taken from wild pangolins, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency. However, their research hasn’t been published or confirmed by other experts.
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