What is the virus causing illness in Wuhan?
It is a member of the coronavirus family that has never been encountered before. Like other coronaviruses, it has come from animals. Many of those initially infected either worked or frequently shopped in the Huanan seafood wholesale market in the centre of the Chinese city.
What other coronaviruses have there been?
New and troubling viruses usually originate in animal hosts. Ebola and flu are other examples severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (Mers) are both caused by coronaviruses that came from animals.
What are the symptoms of the Wuhan coronavirus?
The virus causespneumonia. Those who have fallen ill are reported to suffer coughs, fever and breathing difficulties. In severe cases there can be organ failure. As this is viral pneumonia, antibiotics are of no use. The antiviral drugs we have against flu will not work. If people are admitted to hospital, they may get support for their lungs and other organs as well as fluids. Recovery will depend on the strength of their immune system. Many of those who have died were already in poor health.
Is the virus being transmitted from one person to another?
Chinas national health commission has confirmed human-to-human transmission, and there have been such transmissions elsewhere. As of 12 February there are now 45,182 confirmed cases and 1,115 deaths. There are cases in 28 other countries outsideChina, with deaths recorded in one case in Hong Kong, and one case in the Philippines. The number of people to have contracted the virus overall could be far higher, as people with mild symptoms may not have been detected.
The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK has doubled from four to eight after four more people in Brighton were diagnosed with the infection over the weekend.
One of the other four confirmed cases is being treated at the HCID unit at the Royal Free hospital in north London, and the two Chinese nationals who tested positive for Coronavirus in York are being treated at the HCID centre in Newcastle.
Why is this worse than normal influenza, and how worried are the experts?
We dont yet know how dangerous the new coronavirus is, and we wont know until more data comes in. The mortality rate is around 2%. However, this is likely to be an overestimate since many more people are likely to have been infected by the virus but not suffered severe enough symptoms to attend hospital, and so have not been counted. For comparison, seasonal flu typically has a mortality rate below 1% and is thought to cause about400,000 deathseach year globally. Sars had a death rate of more than 10%.
Should I go to the doctor if I have a cough?
Unless you have recently travelled to China or been in contact with someone infected with the virus, then you should treat any cough or cold symptoms as normal. TheNHS advisesthat people should call 111 instead of visiting the GPs surgery as there is a risk they may infect others.
Is this a pandemic and should we panic?
Health experts are starting to say it could become a pandemic, but right now it falls short of what the WHO would consider to be one. A pandemic, in WHO terms, is the worldwide spread of a disease. Coronavirus cases have been confirmed in about 25 countries outside China, but by no means in all 195 on the WHOs list.
There is no need to panic. The spread of the virus outside China is worrying but not an unexpected development. The WHO has declared the outbreak to be a public health emergency of international concern, and says there is a window of opportunity to halt the spread of the disease. The key issues are how transmissible this new coronavirus is between people and what proportion become severely ill and end up in hospital. Often viruses that spread easily tend to have a milder impact.
Sarah BoseleyHealth editor andHannah Devlin