Data sharing and outbreaks: best practice exemplified (2020/01/24)

The current outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is yet another example of the importance of infections at the animal–human interface, and the concerns that arise from the emergence of a newly identified organism as it spreads through human populations and across national and international borders.
At the beginning of an outbreak such as this, readily available information is important to begin the assessment necessary to understand the risks and begin outbreak containment activities. This information includes initial reports from the outbreak site and from laboratories supporting the initial investigation, and information obtained from previous outbreaks with similar organisms.
But what is not known is of equal importance. Information is required that will help refine the risk assessment as the outbreak continues and ensure that patients are managed in the best possible way. This information includes routes of transmission and transmissibility, the natural history of infection in humans, the populations at risk, the successful clinical practices that are being used to manage patients, the laboratory information needed to diagnose patients, and the genetic sequence information used to assess viral stability. Much of this information is emerging in real time, challenging our understandings and nonetheless refining our responses.