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Coronavirus: What are the symptoms and how is it transmitted?

January 27, 2020

Wuhan's coronavirus is a new strain that had not been seen before in humans, which means there is still much to investigate.

6 min read

This story originally appeared on World Economic Forum

Coronavirus: What are the symptoms and how is it transmitted?Coronavirus: What are the symptoms and how is it transmitted?

There are already hundreds of confirmed cases and several people killed by the coronavirus originating in the city of Wuhan , in central China .

Although most cases have occurred in the Asian giant's regions, the spread of the virus to countries such as Thailand, South Korea, Japan and the United States, among others, has also been confirmed.

The also known “Wuhan pneumonia” keeps health organizations around the world on alert because their spread and contagion capacity seems to be more intense than originally warned in China.

Now, the authorities of that country admitted that they are in a “critical stage” of prevention and control, advising people to stop traveling in and out of Wuhan.

Wuhan's coronavirus is a new strain that had not been seen before in humans, which means there is still much to investigate.

But what are the symptoms, how deadly is it, how is it transmitted and what should be done to prevent its spread? BBC World gives you the answers.

1. What are the symptoms

Patients infected with this coronavirus experience various symptoms, including shortness of breath, fever, cough and muscle pain.

Due to its rapid spread, patients infected with the virus should be treated in isolation.

According to a WHO report issued on January 20, an infected woman in South Korea suffered from chills, high fever, muscle pain and runny nose.

Although the patient was first diagnosed with a simple cold, doctors later detected that she was suffering from the virus.

According to the authorities, the incubation period for “Wuhan pneumonia” (that is, how long it takes for symptoms to appear after contracting the infection) is days, rather than weeks.

Coronaviruses are a broad family of viruses, but it is known that only six (the new one would be the seventh) infect people.

2. Is it deadly?

Until January 23, of the more than 500 cases of contagion, it is known that at least 17 people have died from the new coronavirus since its spread, in December 2019.

This means that the vast majority of patients suffering from the virus do not end with fatal consequences.

Coronaviruses are a broad family of viruses, but it is known that only six (the new one would be the seventh) infect people.

Although research is still lacking in this regard, doctors have said that this coronavirus is not as serious as severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), which in 2002 killed 774 of the 8,098 people infected in an outbreak that also began in China.

“When we see a new coronavirus, we want to know how severe the symptoms are; this is more than cold-like symptoms and it is a concern, but it is not as serious as Sars,” Mark Woolhouse of the University of Edinburgh told BBC.

3. How is it transmitted?

The Chinese authorities believe that the virus originated in a seafood market in Wuhan that “made illegal transactions of wild animals.”

The first human cases were identified in this same Chinese city in December 2019, although it is not yet known how or when the virus became infectious for people.

Although initially it was said that the contagion only happened with the contact of animals, this Tuesday the Chinese authorities confirmed for the first time that the virus has been transmitted from person to person.

In China there is concern that the virus will spread through the hundreds of millions of people traveling for the Chinese New Year later this month.

In fact, it was confirmed that some health workers became infected after attending patients with the same disease.

This worries doctors, because viruses that infect the lungs, like this one, are very effective in spreading due to coughing and sneezing. However, it is still too early to measure how many people could be affected.

Now, there is concern that the virus can spread through the hundreds of millions of people traveling for the Chinese New Year later this month.

Given this, Singapore and Hong Kong have been controlling Wuhan air passengers and US authorities announced similar measures at the airports in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.

4. How to prevent its spread?

At the moment, there is no vaccine that can protect people against this coronavirus, but researchers are trying to develop one.

As a preventive measure, health authorities have called on people to wash their hands continuously.

Patients who are already infected receive treatment while they are isolated from the rest of the hospital.

According to the advice of the WHO, to prevent contagion, close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections should be avoided.

In addition, people should wash their hands frequently, especially after direct contact with sick people or their surroundings, and avoid unprotected contact with farm or wild animals.

On the other hand, those with acute respiratory infections should keep their distance with the rest of the people, cover their mouths when coughing and sneeze with tissues or clothes, and wash their hands.

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