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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Researchers continue delving into the coronavirus that struck China and is spreading globally will reach the dreaded pandemic stage.

The big question: Concern has been growing over whether the virus will spark a pandemic, which would likely kill multitudes and decimate economies. So far the outbreak is largely contained to China and hasn't spread from person-to-person consistently, Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases tells Axios.

"Quite frankly, it is likely [to become a pandemic] given what we see happening in China. ... But, this is an unprecedented virus and we don't really know."
— Anthony Fauci, to Axios on Feb. 4

What they're saying: Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO, said Feb. 4 that 99% of cases are in China and it's not too late to contain it, but he urged nations to make "an immediate improvement in data sharing" from investigations of confirmed patients.

  • WHO has only received complete case reports for 38% of cases outside China, and Tedros added, "Some high-income countries are well behind in sharing this vital data with WHO. I don’t think it’s because they lack capacity."

What we know: The new coronavirus' genetic sequence is 79.5% similar to SARS, another coronavirus that killed hundreds and devastated local economies in 2003.

  • There have been 27 cases of human-to-human transmission of the new coronavirus in nine countries, per WHO's Oliver Morgan. U.S. public health officials have confirmed two secondary cases in America.
  • Symptoms vary from mild illness with fever, cough, shortness of breath and sometimes diarrhea, to severe pneumonia, multiple organ failure and death, about seven to 10 days after symptoms start.

What we think we know:

  • The virus is suspected to have originally emerged from bats, but there may also be intermediary hosts, or animals infected by bats that transmit to humans.
  • The incubation period is 1–12.5 days, leading to a 14-day monitoring period for suspected cases, according to WHO's Maria Van Kerkhove.
  • The WHO delegate from China said 75% of deaths were in people with one or more underlying health conditions.
  • One person can infect roughly 1.4 to 4.9 people, per Kerkhove.
  • The airborne droplets of the virus don't appear to last in the air as long as measles.

What we don't know: Scientists hope to find out if people without symptoms can transmit the virus, as this would likely tighten restrictions and increase the need for more diagnostics. WHO is investigating reports of this type of transmission happening.

  • Fauci points out it's too early to determine the severity of illness until more data is provided. We don't yet know how deadly this virus will be.

Meanwhile, Tedros said 22 nations now have some type of travel restrictions imposed on people who had been in China, which has "little public health benefit." China's delegate said those nations should "stay clear of these criminal actions and stigmatization."

Go deeper: What's happening with the coronavirus

Editor's note: This piece was updated with new information.

Go deeper

Trump pardons former fundraiser Elliott Broidy

President Trump has pardoned Elliott Broidy, a former top Republican fundraiser who pleaded guilty late last year to conspiring to violate foreign lobbying laws as part of a campaign to sway the administration on behalf of Chinese and Malaysian interests.

Why it matters: Broidy was a deputy finance chair for the Republican National Committee early in Trump’s presidency, and attempted to leverage his influence in the Trump administration on behalf of his clients. The president's decision to pardon Broidy represents one last favor for a prominent political ally.

Trump pardons Bannon in final hours of presidency

Steve Bannon. Photo: Joe Raedle / Getty Images

President Trump issued an eleventh-hour pardon to his former chief strategist Steve Bannon on Tuesday night, sparing a longtime ally from a federal fraud prosecution over his alleged misappropriation of nonprofit funds.

Why it matters: Bannon was the most high-profile name on a White House list of what's expected to be dozens pardons and commutations, with hours remaining in Trump’s presidency. His pardon of the former Breitbart News chief came as Bannon faced criminal charges stemming from a scheme to privately finance a southern border wall.

Ina Fried, author of Login
3 hours ago - Technology

Scoop: Google is investigating the actions of another top AI ethicist

Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Photo by Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Google is investigating recent actions by Margaret Mitchell, who helps lead the company's ethical AI team, Axios has confirmed.

Why it matters: The probe follows the forced exit of Timnit Gebru, a prominent researcher also on the AI ethics team at Google whose ouster ignited a firestorm among Google employees.

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