Wuhan, China, Jan. 22: A staff member disinfects at the Hankou railway station. The Chinese city at the centre of a SARS-like virus outbreak has urged people to stay away, cancelling a major Lunar New Year event.
STR/AFP via Getty Images
The latest

  • Nine people are dead and 473 sickened in China as of Wednesday, as the Wuhan coronavirus viruss spread to Hong Kong raises fears of a new pandemic in Asia. By Wednesday, four cases had been reported in Thailand and one each in Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.
  • The first North American case, a traveller in Washington state recently returned from the Wuhan region of China, was confirmed by U.S. health officials Tuesday. Airports and hospitals in the United States and Canada have strengthened screening and sanitary protocols to prevent the viruss spread.
  • Chinese health authorities are still trying to determine the origin of this new virus, which they say came from a market in Wuhan where wildlife was traded illegally. The World Health Organization says an animal appears most likely to be the primary source.

What does this virus do?
The new virus that emerged last December in China officially called 2019-nCoV, but dubbed the Wuhan virus after the city where it was found is a coronavirus, a common type of infection among humans and animals. Corona means crown or halo in Latin, describing the viruses typical shape when seen under an electron microscope. The common cold is a type of coronavirus, but the Wuhan viruss symptoms resemble the more serious and dangerous types, such as SARS and MERS.
HOW DOES CORONAVIRUS
INFECT A PERSON?
Human coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through:
The air by coughing and sneezing
Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
Touching the eyes, nose or mouth after touching an infected surface
Rarely, fecal contamination
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF THE VIRUS?
Headache
Runny nose
Sore throat
Cough
Fever
In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death
SOME FACTS ABOUT THE VIRUS
Belongs to large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from common cold to more severe diseases such as MERS and SARS
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people
There are no specific treatments for coronaviruses, but symptoms can be treated
MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Canada, WHO
HOW DOES CORONAVIRUS INFECT A PERSON?
Human coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through:
The air by coughing and sneezing
Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
Touching the eyes, nose or mouth after touching an infected surface
Rarely, fecal contamination
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF THE VIRUS?
Headache
Runny nose
Sore throat
Cough
Fever
In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death
SOME FACTS ABOUT THE VIRUS
Belongs to large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from common cold to more severe diseases such as MERS and SARS
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people
There are no specific treatments for coronaviruses, but symptoms can be treated
MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Canada, WHO
HOW DOES CORONAVIRUS INFECT A PERSON?
Human coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through:
The air by coughing and sneezing
Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
Touching the eyes, nose or mouth after touching an infected surface
Rarely, fecal
contamination
COMMON SIGNS OF INFECTION
Headache
In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death
Runny nose
Sore throat
Cough
Fever
SOME FACTS ABOUT THE VIRUS
Belongs to large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from common cold to more severe diseases such as MERS and SARS
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people
There are no specific treatments for coronaviruses, but symptoms can be treated
MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Canada, WHO
Where has it spread?
Hong Kong, Jan. 21: Gabriel Leung, chair professor of public health medicine at the University of Hong Kong, speaks about the extent of the Wuhan virus.
ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images
As of Jan. 22, 473 confirmed infections and nine deaths have been recorded in China, according to the Chinese governments tracking website. Most cases are in Hebei province, where Wuhan is located, with a few cases in Beijing, Shanghai and other provinces.
The viruss spread has coincided with the movement of hundreds of millions of people in Chinas Lunar New Year, often described as the largest human migration on Earth. Cases have been reported in Japan, Thailand and South Korea, and on Jan. 21 the first North American case, a traveller from China, was diagnosed in Washington state, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
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Canadas response
Canadas Chief Public Health Officer, Theresa Tam, said Monday the government is increasing signage at airports in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal that ask travellers from Wuhan to tell border services agents if they are experiencing any flu-like symptoms. The government will also add a new health screening question to electronic kiosks in the coming weeks.
Provinces are working with hospitals to alert health-care workers about what signs to look for and to prepare new infection-control measures, such as emergency-room signage, isolation areas and how to collect samples from patients with possible infections.
Echoes of SARS
A man adjusts his protective mask as he leaves the SARS Clinic at the Women’s College Hospital, in Toronto, in a 2003 file photo.
Kevin Frayer/The Canadian Press
In March, 2003, an outbreak of SARS traced originally to Chinas Guangdong province killed 44 people in Canada. Health-care workers accounted for 43 per cent of the SARS cases in this country. Globally, 20 per cent of confirmed SARS cases were health-care workers.
The U.S. CDC said 774 people died of SARS, which sickened a total of 8,098 people worldwide. Overall, 438 Canadians were diagnosed with probable and suspected cases of SARS. The WHO only counts probable cases and its final numbers suggested that 8,422 people around the world were infected with the virus.
The hardest-hit country outside Asia was Canada, which recorded 44 deaths, 3,301 hospitalizations and billions of dollars in economic losses as visitors avoided Toronto during what came to be known as the Spring of Fear.
B.C. Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry said unlike the SARS outbreak, officials have already developed a test for the new coronavirus, are aware of the symptoms and have some idea of how the illness progresses. And the 2019-nCoV virus doesnt appear to be as deadly as SARS was, Dr. Henry said.
Further reading
André Picard: There is a new coronavirus on the loose, but we dont have to repeat the mistakes of SARS
Compiled by Globe staff
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With reports from Carly Weeks, Nathan VanderKlippe, The Associated Press and The Canadian Press