Coronavirus explained: What you need to know

China said Monday it was seeing a reduction in fresh coronavirus cases as the global death toll crossed 3,000.

So far, it has spread to 66 countries with more than 88,000 cases reported world over including those in China.

What is coronavirus?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

These viruses were originally transmitted between animals and people. SARS, for instance, was believed to have been transmitted from civet cats to humans while MERS travelled from a type of camel to humans.

Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.

The name coronavirus comes from the Latin word corona, meaning crown or halo. Under an electron microscope, the image of the virus is reminiscent of a solar corona.

A novel coronavirus, identified by Chinese authorities on January 7 and currently named 2019-nCoV, is a new strain that had not been previously identified in humans.

Little is known about it, although human-to-human transmission has been confirmed.

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What are the symptoms?

According to the WHO, signs of infection include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

In more severe cases, it can lead to pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

The incubation period of the coronavirus remains unknown. Some sources say it could be between 10 to 14 days.

How deadly is it?

Some experts say it may not be as deadly as other types of coronavirus such as SARS, which killed nearly 800 people worldwide during a 2002-03 outbreak that also originated from China.

MERS, which did not spread as widely, was more deadly, killing a third of those it infected.

Where have cases been reported?

Most cases have been reported in China.

All deaths have been in China – the vast majority in Hubei province.

The virus has spread to many Asian countries, as well as to Europe and North America.

What is being done to stop its spread?

There is no vaccine for the new virus.

Chinese authorities have effectively sealed off Wuhan, state media said.

The move was meant to “resolutely contain the momentum of the epidemic spreading” and protect lives, the central city’s special command centre against the virus said, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

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More than a dozen other Chinese cities also adopted transport restrictions, affecting 56 million people.

Airports around the world have introduced screening measures and some countries are working to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan.

Where did the virus originate?

Chinese health authorities are still trying to determine the origin of the virus, which they say came from a seafood market in Wuhan where wildlife was also traded illegally.

The WHO also says an animal source appears most likely to be the primary source of the outbreak.

Snakes – including the Chinese krait and the cobra – may be the source of the newly discovered virus, according to Chinese scientists.

Source: WHO, Al Jazeera and other news agencies

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