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FACTBOX: The new coronavirus - What is it and how does it behave?

Coronavirus infections have a wide range of symptoms, including fever, coughing, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

Passengers at a train station connecting Hong Kong to mainland China, wearing masks as a preventative measure following a coronavirus outbreak which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Picture: AFP.

LONDON - Here are some key features of 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”-like spikes.

  • Coronavirus infections have a wide range of symptoms, including fever, coughing, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Mild cases can cause cold-like symptoms, while severe cases can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), kidney failure and death.

Factfile on the coronavirus family, which circulate in animals and can be transmitted to humans. A new strain of this virus has been identified in Wuhan, China. Picture: AFP

  • Like other coronaviruses, the newly identified China coronavirus is being transmitted from person-to-person via droplets when an infected person breathes out, coughs or sneezes.

  • Infection with the newly identified virus has an incubation period of between one and 14 days, and there are limited accounts that it may also be spreading before symptoms show.

  • Infectious disease and virus specialists say the scale of the current outbreak now points to “self-sustaining” human-to-human transmission. They estimate that each infected person is infecting, on average, two to three more people.

  • Testing for the new China virus involves using a real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), which identifies the viral RNA in samples. These could throat swabs, cough samples, or blood samples from patients who are very ill.

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