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What you need to know about the Wuhan coronavirus

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some of which cause the common cold. Symptoms of the new virus include fever, cough and shortness of breath.
In this Jan. 24, 2020, file photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, a medical worker attends to a patient in the intensive care unit at Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province. (Xiong Qi/Xinhua via AP, File)

More than 7,800 cases of a viral outbreak have been confirmed worldwide, most of them in central China.

The virus has caused 170 deaths, mostly in Hubei province. Experts are especially concerned that new cases outside China may be spreading person-to-person. The virus comes from the coronavirus family, which includes the common cold but also more severe illnesses, such as SARS and MERS.

CORONAVIRUS Q&A: Thursday from 5 - 6:30 p.m. | 614-469-1088

Experts from Columbus Public Health, Nationwide Children's Hospital and Ohio Health will be on 10TV News to answer your questions on the coronavirus.

WHAT IS THE NEW VIRUS?

Scientists have identified it as a new coronavirus. The name comes from the Latin word for crowns or halos, which coronaviruses resemble under a microscope. The coronavirus family has many types that affect people. Some cause the common cold while others originating in bats, camels and other animals have evolved into more severe illnesses such as SARS — severe acute respiratory syndrome — or MERS — Middle East respiratory syndrome.

WHERE DID IT COME FROM?

The first cases appeared last month in Wuhan, a city in central China's Hubei province. Many of the first people infected had visited or worked at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, which has since been closed for an investigation. Chinese health officials say they believe the illness first spread from animals to people. They now say it can spread between people.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

Common symptoms include a runny nose, headache, cough and fever. Shortness of breath, chills and body aches are associated with more dangerous kinds of coronavirus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In serious cases, the virus can cause pneumonia.

HOW IS IT TREATED?

There is a test to identify the virus, but no vaccine to prevent an infection. Patients with the virus have been isolated in hospitals or homes to prevent spreading it. The symptoms are treated with pain and fever medication, and people are advised to drink plenty of liquids and rest while they recover.

HOW IS IT SPREADING?

Many coronaviruses can spread through coughing or sneezing, or by touching an infected person. Scientists believe the new virus can spread from person to person in close contact through the respiratory tract.

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What's new in the China virus outbreak

— China's latest figures show an increase of 38 deaths and 1,737 new cases for a total of 7,711 cases. The 170 deaths have mostly been in Hubei province.

— The World Health Organization convened its coronavirus expert committee to assess whether the outbreak warrants being declared a global emergency. The committee last week had advised the U.N. health agency it was too early to make that pronouncement.

— The United States evacuated 195 Americans from Wuhan who are being tested and monitored at a Southern California military base. The European Union, South Korea and Singapore had flights en route, and other countries are working on similar plans.

— Chinese officials say they're ensuring supplies of daily necessities to Wuhan and other areas that have been cordoned off.

— Australia’s government defended its plan to send evacuees to Christmas Island, which has been used to banish asylum seekers and convicted criminals. Critics warn that some Australians would prefer to stay in China rather than go there.