LONDON: These are some of the key features of the new coronavirus that was identified in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December and is causing an outbreak of disease in China and beyond.
- Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that get their name from what they look like under a microscope: they are spherical and their surfaces are covered with “crown” shaped spikes.
- Coronavirus infections have a wide range of symptoms, including fever, cough, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. Mild cases can cause cold-like symptoms, while severe cases can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), kidney failure and death.
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- Like other coronaviruses, the newly identified Chinese coronavirus is transmitted from person to person through droplets when an infected person exhales, coughs or sneezes. It can also spread through contaminated surfaces, such as door handles or railings.
- Infection with the newly identified virus has an incubation period of between one and 14 days, and there are limited reports that it can also spread before symptoms appear.
- Infectious disease and virus specialists say that the magnitude of the current outbreak now points to a “self-sustaining” person-to-person transmission. They estimate that each infected person is infecting, on average, two or three more people.
- China’s new virus test involves the use of a real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), which identifies viral RNA in a sample. These samples may be from throat swabs, cough samples or blood samples from patients who are very sick.