Coronavirus: Why infections from animals are such a deadly problem

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The Wuhan coronavirus is the latest example of an infection that jumped from animals into humans – and when infections do this, they can be particularly deadly



Health



5 February 2020

By Michael Le Page

Horseshoe bat

The new virus may have come from intermediate horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus affinis)

Fletcher & Baylis/Science Photo Library

THE new coronavirus is the latest example of a disease that jumped from animals into humans. When infections do this they can be deadly – and 2019-nCoV is no exception.

Nearly all viruses and bacteria that infect other organisms are completely harmless to people. But a tiny proportion can infect us and cause so-called zoonotic diseases, which come from animals rather than other people.

“Zoonotic diseases can be so deadly because we have no pre-existing immunity to them”

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