China Shuts Down 3 Cities

Chinese authorities have locked down Wuhan and 2 other cities that are home to 18 million people and the heart of the coronavirus outbreak, the AP reports.

The unprecedented quarantine nixes residents' travel plans for the Lunar New Year holiday, which leads to an estimated 3 billion trips.

But public health experts doubt its effectiveness. “To my knowledge, trying to contain a city of 11 million people is new to science,” WHO China rep Gauden Galea.

With the death toll up to 17 and the official case count pegged at 600 (both likely to rise), the WHO canceled a press conference yesterday after an emergency committee decided to hold a second day of deliberations over whether to declare the outbreak a global health emergency, according to The Hill.

While the world awaits the WHO’s decision and a vaccine (which could be ready in as soon as 3 months, according to Bloomberg Law), Scientific American reports that Chinese scientists studying the virus’s genetic sequence have identified a likely animal source of the current outbreak: Snakes.

In their study published in the Journal of Medical Virology, they suggest the new coronavirus might have jumped from bats to snakes (specifically Chinese krait and the Chinese cobra) sold in the Wuhan market. It’s puzzling, though, how the virus could have adapted to both the cold-blooded and warm-blooded hosts.

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