New China virus: Your questions answered

People wear masks in Beijing, China Image copyright EPA/WU HONG
Image caption People wear masks near the Tiananmen Gate Tower in Beijing, China

The number of people infected with a new virus in China is increasing.

The outbreak of this coronavirus has spread from Wuhan to other major cities and abroad, according to reports.

But what exactly is this new virus and how easy is it to contract?

You have been sending BBC News your questions about coronavirus.

BBC News online’s health editor Michelle Roberts answers your questions.

Is it possible to vaccinate in order to prevent this respiratory illness? – Hans Friedrich

At the moment, there is no vaccine that can protect people against this type of coronavirus, but researchers are looking to develop one.

It is a new strain that hasn’t been seen in humans before, which means doctors still have lots to learn about it.

I am travelling to Beijing and Shanghai in February and would like to know what, if necessary, precautions to take whilst there? – Matt

Based on currently available information, the World Health Organization has not recommend any restrictions on travel or trade.

You should re-check the latest travel advice before you depart.

Is it possible for the virus to have affected any person, who travelled to China in the last few months for example, October to December 2019? – Anonymous

The first human cases were identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019.

There have not been any other suspected human cases reported prior to this.

Given the type of virus, the incubation period (how long it takes for symptoms to appear after catching the infection) is days, rather than weeks.

It is not yet known how or when the virus became infectious to people.

Experts believe the first cases were transmitted by an animal.

Are UK airports planning to screen arrivals? Two family members have lung and heart conditions and relatives from China arrive this week. – Anonymous

Currently, UK airports are not screening passengers on arrival. The government is keeping the situation under review.

Extra checks such as temperature scans have been put in place to screen some travellers elsewhere.

Airports in Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo have been screening air passengers from Wuhan and US authorities last week announced similar measures at three major airports in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption There were six coronaviruses known to infect people.

A lot of initially infected people have already been discharged from hospitals. Does it mean that the virus is not that dangerous? – Anonymous

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe disease. It’s not yet clear how bad this new coronavirus is.

If a patient has recovered from the infection, they should not pose a significant risk to others and can be sent home from hospital provided they are well enough.

What animal does the Corona virus come from? How can one protect himself against? – Anonymous

It is not yet known how the virus was transmitted. Other coronaviruses, such as Sars and Mers, came from cats and camels respectively.

Experts are working to find the source.

Standard recommendations to prevent infection apply. These 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.

In its advice to travellers, the UK’s National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) says there is a low risk of pneumonia due to the novel coronavirus to travellers to Wuhan but simple precautions such as washing hands should be taken.

NaTHNaC adds: “You should also avoid animals (alive or dead), animal markets, and products that come from animals (such as uncooked meat).

“Seek medical attention if you develop respiratory symptoms within 14 days of visiting Wuhan, informing your health service prior to attendance about your recent travel to the city.”


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