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Understanding Coronavirus

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Since the identification of the first cases of the coronavirus in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, there has been a significant amount of confusion regarding the origin and spread of the so-called 'coronavirus', officially named SARS-CoV-2, and the cause of the disease COVID-19. Conflicting messages from the media and officials across different countries and organizations, the abundance of disparate sources of information, unfounded conspiracy theories on the origins of the newly emerging virus and the inconsistent public health measures across different countries, have all served to increase the level of anxiety in the population. Where did the virus come from? How is it transmitted? How does it cause disease? Is it like flu? What is a pandemic? What can we do to stop its spread? Written by a leading expert, this concise and accessible introduction provides answers to the most common questions surrounding coronavirus for a general audience.

Provides a thoughtful and balanced introduction to the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and the disease COVID-19

Discusses the first cases, the clinical characteristics and the inconsistent public health measures adopted across different countries and regions and their impact

Includes coverage of testing, the immune response to the virus and the latest advances in therapy development

Provides a comparison of the 2019 coronavirus pandemic with the 2003 SARS outbreak, as well as flu pandemics, including the 1918 Spanish flu and 2009 H1N1

Discusses what data is available, what it means and what can be learnt from it

A donation from proceeds of the sale of this title will be made to the WHO COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund

Edition Number:
Rabadan Raul
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Raul Rabadan is a Professor in the Department of Systems Biology and Biomedical Informatics, as well as the director of the Program for Mathematical Genomics, at Columbia University. From 2001 to 2003, Dr. Rabadan was a fellow at the Theoretical Physics Division at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, in Geneva, Switzerland. In 2003 he joined the School of Natural Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. He has been named one of Popular Science's Brilliant 10 (2010), a Stewart Trust Fellow (2013), and he received the Harold and Golden Lamport (2014), Diz Pintado (2018) and Phillip Sharp (2018) awards. Dr. Rabadan's current interest focuses on uncovering patterns of evolution in biological systems – in particular, RNA viruses and cancer.


1. Introduction

2. How is the coronavirus spreading?

3. What is a coronavirus

4. How is the coronavirus changing?

5. How did the COVID-19 outbreak start and evolve?

6. How does the COVID-19 outbreak compare to the SARS outbreak in 2002–2003?

7. How does the COVID-19 outbreak compare to seasonal and pandemic influenza?

8. Are there therapeutic options?


Summary of common misunderstandings

Suggested further reading.

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