China coronavirus: All you need to know in 500 words

New virus thought to have originated in China's Wuhan city has killed at least 1,670 people and infected some 51,866.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the new coronavirus outbreak, which originated in Wuhan, China, a global health emergency.

    At least 1,665 people have died in mainland China and five elsewhere - one in Hong Kong, one in the Philippines, one in Japan, one in France and another in Taiwan. More than 68,5000 people have been infected worldwide, mostly in China.

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    Here is what you need to know:

    What is a coronavirus?

    The coronaviruses family cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), according to the WHO.

    They circulate in animals and some can be transmitted between animals and humans. Several coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.

    The new coronavirus, the seventh known to affect humans, has been named COVID-19.

    What are the symptoms?

    Common signs of infection include fever, coughing and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, it can cause pneumonia, multiple organ failure and death.

    The incubation period of COVID-19 is thought to be between one and 14 days. It is contagious before symptoms appear.

    Infected patients can be asymptomatic, not displaying any symptoms despite having the virus in their systems.

    Coronavirus

    How many people are affected?

    In mainland China, at least 1,665 people died and at least 68,500 have been infected, according to official figures.

    The Philippines, Hong Kong, Japan, France and Taiwan have each reported one death. 

    Cases have been confirmed in Australia, Belgium, Cambodia, Canada, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, the UAE, the UK, the US and Vietnam.

    Where did it come from?

    China alerted the WHO to cases of unusual pneumonia in Wuhan on December 31.

    COVID-19 is thought to have originated in a seafood market where wildlife was sold illegally.

    On February 7, Chinese researchers said the virus could have spread from an infected animal to humans through illegally trafficked pangolins, prized in Asia for food and medicine.

    Scientists have pointed to either bats or snakes as the possible source. 

    What is happening in China now?

    Efforts to contain the outbreak have caused disruption in China, with some 20 cities facing travel restrictions affecting at least 60 million people.

    More than a dozen countries have evacuated their citizens from Wuhan, while others have banned entry to Chinese citizens. Several airlines have suspended flights to and from China. 

    On February 10, a team of WHO experts arrived in China to investigate the outbreak.

    Should I worry? How can I protect myself?

    The WHO declared the virus a global health emergency on January 30, deeming it an "extraordinary event" that constitutes a risk to other countries and requires a coordinated international response. 

    People are being urged to follow local safety measures.

    WHO recommends basic hygiene such as washing hands with soap and water and covering your mouth with your elbow when sneezing or coughing.

    Maintain "social distancing" - keeping at least one metre (three feet) between yourself and others - particularly if they are coughing and sneezing, and avoid touching your face, eyes and mouth with unwashed hands.

    Avoid unnecessary, unprotected contact with animals and be sure to thoroughly wash hands after contact. 

    Ensure meat consumed is cooked thoroughly.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News