All you need to know about the new Corona virus.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global health emergency over a new coronavirus that has killed at least 259 people in China following an outbreak in the central city of Wuhan, forcing a government lockdown in almost 20 cities that, in effect, has quarantined an estimated 56 million people. Nearly 12,000 cases have been reported worldwide, most of them in China and especially in Wuhan and nearby cities in Hubei Province. The infection is now more widespread than the 2002-2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak, which also originated in China, in terms of affected people but not deaths.

So where did the coronavirus come from?

Chinese health authorities are still trying to determine the origin of the virus, which they say came from a seafood market in Wuhan where wildlife was also traded illegally. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as SARS and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

These viruses were originally transmitted between animals and people. SARS, for instance, was believed to have been transmitted from civet cats to humans while MERS travelled from a type of camel to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.

Is this a global emergency?

The outbreak constitutes a global health emergency, the WHO has said. The decision to sound the top-level alarm was made after the first confirmed cases of transmission between people outside China. The international health alert is a call on countries around the world to coordinate their response under the guidance of the United Nations health agency.

There have been five global health emergencies since 2005 when the declaration was formalised: swine flu in 2009; polio in 2014; Ebola in 2014; Zika in 2016 and Ebola again in 2019.

Can the coronavirus spread between people?

Yes, the virus is reportedly spreading from person-to-person in many parts of China, and in some other countries. On Jan. 30, the CDC identified the first case of person-to-person spread in the United States.

In terms of how one would catch the virus, the CDC says that human coronaviruses are most commonly spread between an infected person and others via:

—the air (from viral particles from a cough or sneeze);

—close personal contact (touching or shaking hands);

—an object or surface with viral particles on it (then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands);

 —and rarely from fecal contamination.

What are the symptoms of the new coronavirus and how do you treat it?

Symptoms of the new coronavirus include fever, cough and difficulty breathing, according to the CDC. It's estimated that symptoms may appear as soon as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. On average, people show symptoms about five days after they are infected.

There are no specific treatments for coronavirus infections and most people will recover on their own, according to the CDC. So treatment involves rest and medication to relieve symptoms. A humidifier or hot shower can help to relieve a sore throat and cough. If you are mildly sick, you should drink a lot of fluids and rest but if you are worried about your symptoms, you should see a healthcare provider, they wrote. (This is advice for all coronaviruses, not specifically aimed toward the new virus).

There is no vaccine for the new coronavirus, but researchers at the U.S. National Institutes of Health confirmed they were in preliminary stages of developing one. Officials plan to launch a phase 1 clinical trial of a potential vaccine within the next three months,  Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a news conference on Jan. 28.

Researchers are also working on gathering samples of the virus to design a therapy that will train patients' immune cells to detect and destroy the virus, Facui said.

How can people protect themselves and others?

The best way to prevent infection with 2019-nCoV is to avoid being exposed to the virus, according to the CDC. In general, the CDC recommends the following to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands; avoid close contact with people who are sick; stay home when you are sick and clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

If traveling to China, you should avoid contact with sick people, avoid dead or alive animals, animal markets or products that come from animals such as uncooked meat.

People who traveled to China and became sick with fever, cough or difficulty breathing within the following two weeks should seek medical care right away, and call ahead to inform medical staff about their recent travel.