As the UK battles the most fatal coronavirus outbreak in recorded history, other countries around the world look to us for help. Yet their experience with coronaviruses suggests the strains that are behind the current outbreak might be more infectious than the strain that infected 21 people in London last year. A world map below shows how coronaviruses spread in the last few decades. Their global numbers are higher because the countries with the highest infection rates are closer together. Click to enlarge.

The virus has been well characterized since 1962. It relies on the fact that the immune system has to struggle to recognize it as a foreign substance. This allows it to evade the senses that cleanse the respiratory tract of unwanted substances. In the case of some types of coronavirus, this includes our bodies’ defenses. British doctors are treating two patients who have severe renal failure despite getting extra drugs for kidney failure. To make matters worse, their infections are caused by different strains of the virus. They share the genetic material of the same virus, which means the two patients can pass the infection to others who have not been cleared to clear it on their own.

Let us know if you see this issue in hospitals or clinics.

Interviews by Angela Quirk