The new coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, is a new strain that hasn’t been previously identified in humans.
Coronavirus attacks the respiratory system, causing pneumonia-like lung lesions.
It first emerged about a month ago and is thought to have jumped from bats to humans, via a possible but unknown animal, in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
One of the best ways to protect yourself from catching 2019-nCoV is to be aware of the symptoms.
Here, we take you through the early warning signs to be aware of, how to protect yourself and when to get medical help…
What are the early warning signs?
According to the NHS and the World Health Organisation (WHO), early symptoms of coronavirus infection usually include:
- A runny nose
- A cough and/or sore throat
- A high temperature
- Feeling tired
- Difficulty breathing
These symptoms are similar to other respiratory illnesses such as the flu and the common cold.
However, this new strain is said to more likely to trigger a cough and fever, experts have noted.
And they warn the condition can progress and victims can develop severe complications.
These include pneumonia and swelling in the lungs, which can make it hard for the lungs to pass oxygen into the bloodstream – leading to organ failure and death.
Severe pneumonia can kill people by causing them to “drown” in the fluid flooding their lungs.
How quickly do symptoms come on?
The virus is transmitted between people in droplets from coughing and sneezing and touching or shaking hands.
Symptoms are thought to appear between two and ten days after contracting the virus.
When should I seek help?
If you have travelled to Wuhan or Hubei Province in China (or another significantly affected area) in the last 14 days, or have been in close contact with someone who has and feel unwell, call NHS 111 for advice now.
Public Health England defines close contact as being within two meters of someone for 15 minutes or more or sharing a room for a prolonged period.
HIGH ALERT: Chief Medical Officer confirms two cases of coronavirus in the UK
Announcing the two cases in the UK, Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer, said: “We can confirm that two patients in England, who are members of the same family, have tested positive for coronavirus.
“The patients are receiving specialist NHS care, and we are using tried and tested infection control procedures to prevent further spread of the virus.
“The NHS is extremely well-prepared and used to managing infections and we are already working rapidly to identify any contacts the patients had, to prevent further spread.
“We have been preparing for UK cases of novel coronavirus and we have robust infection control measures in place to respond immediately.
“We are continuing to work closely with the World Health Organization and the international community as the outbreak in China develops to ensure we are ready for all eventualities.”
The NHS urges people to stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as, if you have the virus, you risk spreading it to others.
Health experts are urging people not to go straight to your doctors’ surgery, over fears people will spread the bug there too – but do seek medical help by calling NHS 111.
If you get a cough, a high temperature, or you feel short of breath, continue to follow this advice.
Do not leave your house without getting advice from a doctor.
How can I protect myself?
The best way to prevent catching any form of coronavirus is to practice good hygiene, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
It says that in order to reduce your risk of infection, you should:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds
- Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
If you have cold-like symptoms, you can help protect others by staying home when you are sick and avoiding contact with others.
You should also cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough and sneeze then throw it away and wash your hands.
Cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces which you may have touched is also important.
Dr Daniel Atkinson, clinical lead at Treated.com, said: “Hygiene is incredibly important to ward off any viruses.
“Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly – for at least 20 seconds – and cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
“If you can, avoid contact with sick people and avoid shaking hands with anyone displaying flu-like symptoms.”
Currently there is no vaccine to protect people against the virus.
Other experts around the world are also looking into producing a vaccination.