What is this virus?
The virus has been identified as a new type of corona virus. Coronaviruses are a large family of pathogens, most of which cause mild lung infections, such as the common cold.
But coronaviruses can also be deadly. SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, is caused by a corona virus and killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in the early 2000s.
Can the Wuhan coronavirus kill?
Yes – 638 people have died so far after a positive test for the virus.
What are the symptoms?
Some people who get the Wuhan coronavirus have no symptoms at all, or only very mild ones such as sore throat or headache.
Others may suffer from fever, cough or breathing problems.
And a small proportion of patients will develop a serious infection that can damage the lungs or cause pneumonia, a life-threatening condition that causes swelling and fluid retention in the lungs.
How is it detected?
The genetic sequencing of the virus has been released by scientists in China and countries around the world have used this to make laboratory tests that must be performed to confirm an infection.
Delays in these tests, in test results and in people going to hospitals in China mean that the number of confirmed cases is expected to be only a fraction of the actual extent of the outbreak.
How did it start and spread?
The first cases identified were people connected to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan.
Cases have since been identified throughout China and have been known to spread from person to person.
What do countries do to prevent spread?
Countries in Asia have stepped up airport surveillance. They include Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Australia and the US are also screening patients at high temperatures and the UK has announced that it will screen passengers returning from Wuhan.
Is it similar to something we’ve ever seen before?
Experts have compared it to the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003. The epidemic started in South China and killed more than 700 people in mainland China, Hong Kong and elsewhere.
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