Since early this year, researchers have been racing to understand and characterize COVID-19, the illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, before it becomes unmanageable. The virus, originating in Wuhan, China, was confirmed by Chinese officials and the World Health Organization (WHO) on 7 January and named by the WHO on 11 February.

Comparisons have been made between the current crisis and 2003, when the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus spread from the south of China to countries including Canada, Spain, and Russia, infecting 8,098 people and killing 774. SARS first appeared in November 2002 and was characterized as a coronavirus in late March 2003, in work that was fully published in Science at the end of May 2003. At the time, it was considered one of the fastest, most effective responses to a public health emergency ever. Read more.

Source: Nature 2020.