A mysterious new strain of coronavirus has been rapidly spreading across the globe since it was first discovered in the city of Wuhan, China.
More than 600 people have fallen ill since December, with cases reaching as far as the US. So far, 17 people have died.
It’s currently unclear how lethal this new virus will be but, currently, fatality rates are lower than SARS, which also broke out in China and killed about 10 percent of patients.
The new strain falls under a family of coronaviruses, which can cause symptoms ranging from severe breathing problems to mild respiratory infections such as the common cold.
DailyMail.com has broken down how the new virus compares to other well-known coronaviruses and how lethal it may be.
The new coronavirus has not had fatality rates as bad as those of its cousin, SARS, but experts say this could change. Pictured: Staff of Union Hospital attend a ceremony to form a ‘assault team’ in the fight against coronavirus in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei Province
WUHAN CORONAVIRUS (2019-nCoV)
First reported in China in December 2019, the strain is believed to have emerged from illegally traded wildlife at a seafood market in Wuhan, a city 700 miles south of the capital of Beijing.
While preliminary research suggests the virus was passed to humans from snakes, Chinese health officials reported this week that some cases have been caused by human-to-human transmission increasing the risk of it spreading.
In one example, one doctor and 13 nurses who were treating a neurosurgery patient unknown to be carrying the virus were all infected by it.
As of Thursday, 639 people have fallen ill, mostly in China but with confirmed cases in Japan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and the US.
It is too early for a mortality rate to be established yet, but with 17 people dead so far, that means about 2.6 percent of patients have die.
Cases are also suspected in Mexico, Colombia, the Philippines, the UK and Australia.
The Wuhan coronavirus is believed to be milder than its cousin, SARS, and it takes longer for symptoms to appear.
Most patients experience fever, cough and shortness of breath. Between 15 and 20 percent of cases have required ventilation at a hospital, according to CNN.
Almost all deaths of the Wuhan coronavirus occurred among older males who had pre-existing conditions.
There is no cure for the new virus or vaccine to prevent it, and the National Institutes of Health says research to develop a vaccine is in ‘very preliminary stages.’
SEVERE ACUTE RESPIRATORY SYNDROME (SARS):
SARS first emerged in China in November 2002 but it wasn’t identified by health officials until February 2003.
Scientists have traced the origin back to civets and horseshoe bats, animal strains that mutated into a new, more deadly virus.
It’s unknown which animal is the cause for the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, although some scientists have linked it to snakes or wolves.
SARS was more virulent than the new coronavirus appears to be thus far, and can infect both the upper and lower airways of the respiratory tract.
By the time it was contained in May 2004, 8,098 people had been sickened and 774 people had died – that’s a mortality rate of about 10 percent.
Similarly to 2019-nCoV, older people were among the most vulnerable with fatality rates ranging from less than one percent for those younger than age 25 to more than 50 percent for people aged 65 or older, according to the World Health Organization.
The Chinese government’s response to the outbreak of 2019-nCoV has been far different than it was to SARS.
China was heavily criticized for covering-up and withholding information about the 2003 outbreak, which – experts say – led to so many deaths.
THE COMMON COLD
Between 15 and 30 percent of coronavirus strains are believed to be responsible for the common cold, reported NPR.
It is the most common human disease, with adults catching an average of to four colds per year and children getting between six and 10.
Symptoms are much less severe than the Wuhan coronavirus with most people experiencing not much more than a sore throat, runny nose, sneezing and congestion.
Additionally, unlike the new virus, the common cold cannot be transmitted from animals and is caught by coming into contact with airborne droplets or contaminated surfaces.
More than half of cases clear up within 10 days and the common cold is typically not fatal except in very rare circumstances.
In fact, deaths are so atypical that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t track them, only fatalities for flu-like illnesses.