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COVID-19: the cause, the disease and the response

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CANCELLED : In December 2019 a collection of human cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) were noted in Wuhan, China. Shortly thereafter the causative agent was isolated and identified as a coronavirus (CoV) that was similar to the SARS -CoV that caused an epidemic in 2003. From Wuhan the virus spread throughout China and to other nations. As of 6.3.2020 there have been 98,777 confirmed human infections in 91 countries with 3,389 deaths. Currently, these is no vaccine or effective antiviral drug and control measures have relied upon quarantine of infected patients, screening of those who might be infected and other public health control policies, such as the restricted movement of people into or from infected areas.

This talk will describe what viruses are and how they replicate, how they may be transmitted and how our immune system reacts to eliminate them from our bodies. Thereafter, the nature of this new virus called SARS -CoV-2, where it came from, the disease it causes and the public health and scientific response, such as the search for a vaccine, will be summarised. The talk will conclude by asking why effective vaccines are underutilised, leading to re-emergence of preventable viral diseases, such as measles and mumps.

This talk is part of the SciSoc – Cambridge University Scientific Society series.

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