A coronavirus is a large group of viruses that can cause respiratory illness in humans and birds.
It mostly affects animals but there have been cross infections from animals to humans.
Previous investigations have found that SARS-Corona virus was transmitted from civet cats and MERS-Corona virus was cross-infection from dromedary camels.
Several other known coronavirus strains are circulating in animals with no confirmed human infections yet.
Whilst its infections are mostly mild to moderate, they can cause severe diseases that are potentially lethal leading to an outbreak such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) in 2012 and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) in 2002.
A new coronavirus strain 2019 nCov has been identified and is implicated in the recent viral pneumonia outbreak that started around mid-December 2019 in Wuhan city, Hubei province in Central China.
The source origin has not been determined but a majority of the earliest cases were directly associated with stallholders at the Huainan Seafood Wholesale Market that sells live animals and game meat.
In a matter of weeks, CNN reports that 1409 cases have been confirmed and thousands of contact are under observation.
Incidences have also been reported in a growing number of countries internationally, including the United States, France, Australia, and 7 other Asian countries, most cases being linked from travellers from Wuhan city.
With the current death toll at 56, 6 occurring outside China, the Chinese government has heightened the level of its response across other cities, Beijing and Hong Kong have already declared the virus outbreak an emergency concern and banned all large public gatherings.
The World Health Organization (WHO) emergency committee seating of 23rd January 2020 decided against declaring the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, but affirmed that the committee would urgently reconvene to review the decision if necessary, the committee had previously warned of a wider outbreak due to the Chinese lunar festivals.
Coronavirus is highly communicable and spread through airborne and contact from infected persons.
The WHO’s interim guideline has put both health care workers and the general public on high alert to handle any suspicious infected person with gloves and masks.
Common signs of infection include; fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
Severe cases present with a severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and death.
Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs.
Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.