Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speaks to medical workers as he visits the Jinyintan hospital where patients who have coronavirus are being treated in Wuhan, China [File: CNS Photo via Reuters]

Uncertainty about the ultimate toll of the coronavirus outbreak centred in China is the primary driver of the aggressive response and heightened media attention it is getting. In the coming weeks, emerging epidemiological and virological analyses will be critical to reaching a better understanding of the threat and developing critical diagnostic tools and vaccines.

These tools, alongside appropriate messaging from public health officials, are needed to mitigate the political and economic costs associated with the large-scale disruption of trade and travel in the current environment of anxiety.

The 2003 SARS coronavirus pandemic, which infected approximately 8,000

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