Matthew writes:

Dear twiv team, 

I came across a couple of resources, besides the the Johns Hopkins tracker, that have been very useful for keeping an eye on the spread of the new corona virus. I will include the websites below.

1. coronavirus Operations Dashboard

2. BNO coronavirus tracking 

Hope you find these helpful if not just for the comparison of numbers.  


Anthony writes:

At the video above, Dr, Fauci  praises China’s response to the outbreak.  The image is a comment at the JAMA Youtube Page.

Why is the Chinese government being praised when the response hardly could have been worse?  

Coronavirus kills Chinese whistleblower doctor

Anna writes:

Hello, TWiV team!

I just finished listening to Episode 585. You discussed the NEJM study that was being taken as clear-cut evidence for asymptomatic transmission of 2019-nCoV. I wanted to make sure you’d seen that some important problems with that study were later realized:

Thank you so much for your excellent and thorough discussions, coverage, and updates during this outbreak! Madison reached 32 degrees Fahrenheit/0 degrees Celsius today, which means it’s pleasant jogging weather here.



Anna Heffron

MD-PhD Candidate, Entering Class of 2014

Dave O’Connor Lab

Medical Scientist Training Program

University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health

Anthony writes:

May you live in interesting times?


# # # 

” But worries surround the Chinese lab, too. The SARS virus has escaped from high-level containment facilities in Beijing multiple times, notes Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey. Tim Trevan, founder of CHROME Biosafety and Biosecurity Consulting in Damascus, Maryland, says that an open culture is important to keeping BSL-4 labs safe, and he questions how easy this will be in China, where society emphasizes hierarchy. “Diversity of viewpoint, flat structures where everyone feels free to speak up and openness of information are important,” he says.”

# # #

“According to Wuhan-based Yangtze Daily, Shi Zhengli, Deputy Director of Wuhan’s P4 Lab, publicized a statement on Feb. 2 saying: “I pledge with my life that the 2019 novel coronavirus has nothing to do with our lab. This virus is a punishment imposed on mankind from nature, to condemn mankind’s uncivilized way of living. Those of you who believe rumors or so-called scientific analysis by unqualified researchers, I advise you to shut your damn mouths!””

Lauriel writes:

Greetings fellow viraphiles, 

Thank you for these past few episodes on the coronavirus outbreak. It’s been helpful not only for my own edification, but for my friends who see me as their go-to for virus questions. Your last episode covered most of what I’ve been commonly asked, except for this question that keeps popping up: how long can coronaviruses remain infectious on packages going through the mail? There seems to be a lot of concern about catching 2019-nCoV from items shipped from China. Since the virus has an envelope, I would think the risk is minimal to non-existent? (e.g. can you catch an enveloped virus from an envelope?)

In relation to the talk of infographics and virulence v. ineffectivity, I thought y’all might enjoy the MicrobeScope at information is beautiful:

You can change the plots to look at different relationships, like ‘deadliness’ v ‘contagiousness’ or ‘deadliness’ v ‘media coverage’. They don’t have 2019-nCoV on there yet, but I bet it’ll get added soon. 

For my pick of the week, and since bats have been in the news so much lately, I want to point your listeners to some adorable bat-themed Instagram accounts run by wildlife rehabilitation centers in Australia, that are currently up to their max capacity with flying foxes:

While the fires in Australia have been tragic, it’s heartening to see all the animals rescued by these dedicated and loving caregivers. 

It’s still winter here in the Washington. Current temp is 35degF (1.6degC) and partly cloudy, with rain expected for the next 4 months. I recently moved back to the PNW for a job at a biotech startup after finishing my postdoc in North Carolina. Loving the new job and happy to return to my mossy roots. 

Please keep up the great podcasting.


(PS: Hi Vincent!)

Trudy writes:

Dear TWiVers,

I’m writing this email in follow-up to TWiV #584, featuring guest Ralph Baric. At some point Ralph suggested that viruses can acquire beneficial mutations that allow a virus to jump from an animal reservoir into a human host. He also added that that does not mean that the virus can then transmit efficiently from one human to another. That brings me to the following question: What does it take for a virus to spread efficiently from human to human? Is there a certain level of viral replication required? Are some human receptors more conducive to sustained transmission? Or are there other factors involved and do they differ from virus to virus?

Thanks and Best Regards,


[vr: who knows what are the requirements for person to person spread. We tried to do this with H5N1 but everyone went negative. Also, I suspect that the new CoV came out of bats ready to spread among humans. Whether adapting mutations occurred early on, we will never know as we don’t have the earliest isolates that went from bats into humans.]

Brendan writes:

Hi TWiV gang,

I’ve been listening to all of the TWis over the last year working my way through the back catalogue and am about halfway current on TWiV, want to thank you all for sticking with it over all these years and putting out such a quality and informative show that’s also such fun to listen to. I just jumped ahead to listen to TWiV 584 and your discussion with Professor Baric was great, hope to hear more from him as he seems to be pretty plugged in with the local Institute of Virology folks in Wuhan. 

I am currently based in Chengdu where the weather is overcast and pretty mild for this time of year with highs around 10C and a chilly breeze. Chengdu is not too far from Wuhan, though it is in Sichuan province and separated from Hubei province by the large municipality of Chongqing. It’s still such early days and the travel restrictions on Wuhan and the surrounding cities have not even been in place for a week, so it’s hard to tell how effective they will be, but here in Chengdu there has been a very noticeable drop off of public gatherings. Almost all businesses are closed (much more than the usual around Chinese  New Year) and those that are open have varying degrees of measures targeted at infection control: for example the supermarket downstairs from where I live is giving out face masks to patrons who don’t have one on the way in, and one of the rock climbing gyms I frequent is requiring users take a temperature before letting them in and even then you are only allowed to stay if you thoroughly wash hands and use a face mask (they mentioned they will close tomorrow until further notice which I gather is pressure from the local government to close all non essential public spaces). This is all anecdotal but as the number of cases in Chengdu are in line or less than other similar and larger cities I would say there is something representative about what I’m seeing here. 

It’s worrying to hear that this may be a community spread disease with the potential for asymptomatic transmission, but it seems people are pretty serious about staying in and avoiding contact with others. I’m wondering what kind of increase in cases in cities outside of the central outbreak in and around Wuhan would be indicative of sustained local spread, and perhaps that’s something you all could address on a future episode.

For tracking the growth in cases, I’ve been pointed to this site by a local Chinese friend which gives a breakdown of all cases by province and city (cases are broken down into suspected, diagnosed, deaths and recoveries). While there is no easy way to get a time series of data like Rich was asking for, I’ve been periodically checking in to see how the numbers are going up (for example in the past 48 hours before my writing confirmed cases in Chengdu went from 7 up to 22). While the site is in Chinese a machine translation of the page by selecting the table text and then pasting to google translate (don’t ask how I can access that) seems to work well enough:

Anyways hope this snapshot of what’s going on helps with your understanding and look forward to more awesome TWiV episodes!

Kind regards,


Jennie Spotila writes:

Hello Vincent and the TWiV crew,

As of this writing, the Washington Post is reporting 9,000 Wuhan coronavirus infections and 213 dead. How do we know that the deceased number is accurate? 

Presumably there are people dying of other respiratory illnesses in Wuhan and the province. Can we be confident that there are no additional coronavirus infections among those people? Would investigators be testing patients with any respiratory illnesses, or perhaps testing banked samples from deceased patients?

It seems possible that there are cases being missed (both survived and deceased), especially if large scale testing is not being deployed. Can anyone on the team shed light on this? 

Thanks, as always!

Stacy writes:

Hi all,

More questions:

  1. Do bats trapped in cages for long periods show any signs of greater viral load/viral shedding than bats caught briefly, tested and released? (I am thinking about NASA’s discovery that dormant herpesviruses reactivate in astronauts).
  2. The article “Bat Coronaviruses in China,” by Yi Fan,Kai Zhao, Zheng-Li Shi and Peng Shou asks the question: ‘Why did the first SARS case occur in Guangdong Province, but all the human-ACE2-using SARSr-CoVs were found in Yunnan Province?’ David Quammen has written that bats around the world are under increasing stress. Could the act of capturing previously stressed bats, locking them in cages, carrying them to markets, and forcing them to exist in a state of imminent death for long periods be enough to cause extreme viral loads/viral shedding? (I am wondering about whether bats, being flying mammals, experience more extreme stress than other mammals when captured and placed in small, confining cages).

I’ve been following the excellent articles and their links in the NYTimes, including the opinion piece by David Quammen. But, I still crave an episode of TWIV that could address these and other listeners’ questions.

Thank you for all your excellent work. 


Brian writes:


Firstly, I am only a ‘citizen scientist’, but I have been burning the midnight oil as I find the unanswered questions about 2019-CoV fascinating. I should quickly add here that I am an “Aspie” – Aspergers – so things like this do intrigue me.

The question I find intriguing is the animal vector that passed on the virus to humans.

Please humor me and pass on my hypothesis to your friends for consideration.

With SARS-CoV the animal vector was said to be bats, as the SARS-CoV virus was found to be similar to Betacoronaviruses found in bats.

However there is another animal that is eaten in China that has also been found to harbour Betacoronaviruses, specificaly: 

Ea-HedCoV HKU31 F6 and Ea-HedCoV HKU31 RS13


Identification of a Novel Betacoronavirus (Merbecovirus) in Amur Hedgehogs from China.

This animal is the Amur hedgehog, also called the Manchurian hedgehog (Erinaceus amurensis). This animal is very common in the wild and is also commercially farmed for consumption. It is a delicacy especially in Hubei style restaurants. 

See attached file: hedgehog-2.jpg

Many news reports that I have read are saying that bats are the probable vector that passed on the virus to humans.

Both bats and hedgehogs are commonly found with ticks on their bodies, and ticks are able pass on viruses when feeding on the host animal.

So, simply put, ticks from infected bats fall to the ground and move on to infected hedgehogs. A recombinant virus was then produced in the hedgehogs – 2019-nCoV – and then passed onto humans who ate infected hedgehogs.

I have attached a graphic showing how popular hedgehogs are in Chinese live food markets, please take a look at it, as what I’m hypothesizing may seem a little outlandish.

See attached file: hedgehog-1.jpg

I hope find this link interesting as well as it mentions hedgehogs and live food markets in China:

Evaluating risks of paramyxovirus and coronavirus emergence in China.

Thanks very much for your time.

Best wishes,


Suellen writes:

Great episode! Lots of excellent science! But I have a question about the very last thing Dr. Baric said, and I hope I remember it correctly: At 46:10 or so of the podcast he said his team is interested in “synthetically resurrecting the virus using reverse genetics,” and I don’t know what that means.

I am guessing he’s talking about a process that would allow them to essentially “reverse engineer” the virus to take it back in time to an earlier iteration, such as SARS, to see how it has evolved? Remember, I’m not a virologist, so sorry for the clumsy guess. And, no, I’m not worried that Dr. Baric’s team will create a virus that gets loose and kills half the world — I just am interested in how research into the evolution of a virus works, and I am guessing that the process he mentions might allow his team to tell us that (1) it evolved from SARS, and (2) what mutations took it from the 2003 SARS to 2020 Wuhan. 

So if you can shed some light on that, please do!


Suellen in Roswell

where the daffodils are in bloom and it’s headed up into the 50’s today

Peter writes:

Dear TWiVsters 

I have seen many claims online that it will be possible to have developed a vaccine for the 2019-nCoV virus in a just few months. What is your take on this? 

To me it seems to be an unrealistically short time to develop and test a new vaccine. I have read that that it is intended to produce a DNA based vaccine, though as far as I know there are no DNA vaccines licenced for humans yet, only some veterinary vaccines.

The Fortune Magazine is one of the few sources that seem to recognise how long vaccine development can take:

Scientists work on China coronavirus vaccine | Fortune

Scientists across the globe are working to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China and has infected over 6,000 people globally.



Trent writes:

Dear TWIVvers,

It’s damp and dark in London on the day the UK realises it has at least two cases of coronavirus. I wonder if I could ask you for some historical speculation. If 2019-nCoV has arrived in the world 10, 20, 30, 40, or 50 years ago, what would it have looked like? 

Would we have noticed, or would differences in diagnostics, migration, and transport infrastructure have kept it hidden or contained? 

For that matter, would it have spread even more widely without such a rapid and concerted scientific response and the means to identify the problem quickly and begin public health measures?

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. 

Thanks for keeping us informed through an uncertain time.

All the best,


Jody writes:

Hi Team TWiV,

Greetings from sodden Seattle where it is currently 51 F, with snow levels rocketing up to 7,000 feet, sending much of the snow that was dumped on us recently downhill to flood our rivers. If the rain stops, however, this is the temperature at which people around here start taking their shirts off to run the local trails or play volleyball. Me, I am sitting inside drinking hot tea out of my beloved TWiV mug and thinking of upping my monthly Patreon donation…

I saw these photographs and thought you all might get a kick out of them — definitely worth spending a few minutes away from monitoring 2019-nCoV to fill your eyeballs with these shapes:

I just finished David Quammen’s wonderful book Spillover and I admit I am getting a real thrill out of following the journey of — and global response to — a new zoonosis. Can’t wait to hear you all talk about it! Your podcasts have changed my life: after a 20 year career as a designer (and 7 years so far as a mom), the last five years of immersing myself in TWiX (and especially consuming everything I can on epidemiology, disease ecology, and the connection between infectious disease and climate change) have me now working toward going back to school for Microbiology. Any advice you have for what paths an unconventional student like myself (I am 42 and the primary parent of a 7-year-old…who also wants to be a virologist) might take to pursue my dream of becoming a virus hunter would be greatly appreciated. I already have a BS; UW seems to only have a bachelors and a PhD but no Masters. I intend to look up a handful of individuals on campus and see if they will let me pick their brains. 

Cheers and thanks for all you do! 


Mark writes:

Dear Vincent and the TWiVs,

The weather here in San Jose, CA is our typical winter pattern. Its mostly cloudy until late morning whereupon it becomes sunny or partially sunny. . Weather has been dry. We need rain. The state is 20-30% below seasonal rainfall average depending on location. Day time temperatures are in the low/mid 60’s, night time temps are in the mid/upper 40’s on the Fahrenheit scale. Users of the Centigrade scale should subtract 32 and multiply that quantity by 9/5 to get Centigrade values.

A colleague who manages his company’s manufacturing  sites in the US, China, and Singapore sent me a website tracking global 2019-nCoV infections. Data is collected and published by Johns Hopkins University. Here is the URL:

The site provides three views: a summary of total numbers, a trend report broken down to the country and community level, and a map with overlay circles with radii proportional to number of reported infections.

From this site I’ve learned that there are two ncorona cases reported in the adjacent City of Santa Clara, and two out in the agricultural area of San Benito.

All the best.

Sophia writes:

Happy holidays

I found this report quite insightful and would like to suggest it:

all the best,