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A&E medic has coronavirus: Virus fear grips UK as NHS hospital worker is among eight with deadly bug

A doctor working in a busy A&E department is one of the eight Britons who has tested positive for coronavirus as nine schools in the Brighton area are on lockdown after staff and pupils went into quarantine at home, it was revealed today.

The medic treated a ‘small number’ of patients at Worthing Hospital in West Sussex on February 4 and 5 before they became unwell and ‘self-isolated’.

Patients and staff are being contacted and told what symptoms to look for and the precautions they should take – but the hospital continues to operate as normal today. 

NHS staff are at the centre of the coronavirus crisis after two GPs became infected after a ski trip with Britain’s super-spreader Steve Walsh in France at the end of January.

The Worthing A&E doctor is the second confirmed medic to test positive for the virus – after Brighton GP Catriona Greenwood, also known by her married name Saynor, fell ill last week.

Two health centres in Brighton have been shut down this week and a care home visited by Dr Greenwood has also been sealed off to prevent any spread of the virus, which has claimed more than 1,000 lives worldwide and infected 40,000. 

Seven schools in the city have also issued coronavirus warnings to parents – including one across from County Oak Medical Centre, where Dr Greenwood works, and in some cases children are being allowed to stay home. And two schools in Eastbourne, 21 miles east of Brighton, are in the same position after a teacher went into self isolation. 

A doctor who spent two days working at Worthing Hospital’s A&E department has tested positive for coronavirus

Dr Catriona (pictured), a doctor, had moved from Brighton to live permanently in the chalet

Environmental consultant Bob Saynor, 48, and his nine-year-old son have been named locally as being at the centre of the outbreak and are being treated in hospital

Dr Catriona Saynor (pictured left) works as a locum at County Oak Medical Centre in Brighton, which was shut down this week Her husband Bob and their nine-year-old son are also said to have been confirmed with coronavirus after the ski break with Britain’s super-spreader

Mark Rumble, 31, from Oxfordshire, with Ricky Hatton in Thailand,is believed to be the prisoner who collapsed with a suspected case of coronavirus yesterday

Mark Rumble, 31, from Oxfordshire, with Ricky Hatton in Thailand,is believed to be the prisoner who collapsed with a suspected case of coronavirus yesterday

Nurses ‘including one pregnant woman are being held in quarantine’

The nurses had treated a woman at The Haven in Mill View hospital, Hove, who is thought to have the coronavirus

The nurses had treated a woman at The Haven in Mill View hospital, Hove, who is thought to have the coronavirus

Two nurses – including one who is pregnant – are reportedly being forcibly kept in quarantine after they treated a patient suspected of having coronavirus. 

The nurses had treated a woman at The Haven in Mill View hospital, Hove, who is thought to have recently returned from holiday in Hong Kong, according to the Brighton Argus. 

They are being kept in a room next door to the patient, a source said. 

The nurses have been kept in the room since 8.30pm yesterday evening, after treating the woman in a suspected new case of the deadly illness. 

Another source claimed that the nurses were working a night shift on the mental health ward when they were told they couldn’t leave.  

It came as a prisoner at the centre of a suspected coronavirus outbreak at a high security jail has been revealed as an alleged drug-dealer kingpin who who was extradited back to the UK from Thailand on January 27. 

Mark Rumble, 31, from Oxfordshire, was sent back to the UK to face charges of a conspiracy to supply class A drugs. 

Rumble reportedly collapsed in his cell at HMP Bullingdon, close to Bicester on Monday, while a second inmate developed flu-like symptoms and a third other is also being tested for the illness. 

Meanwhile, a prison nurse who first checked Rumble has put herself into ‘self-isolation’ at home. 

A total of 33 cases of the coronavirus, now named COVID-19, have been diagnosed in Thailand – it was the first country outside of China to declare cases, on January 13. In total, more than 1,100 people have died from the illness.

Hundreds of inmates have been confined to their cells, with the prison gripped by panic. 

Results from Rumble and the other potentially infected inmates are expected within 24 hours. 

A source said: ‘The entire wing is currently in lockdown and will be for the next 72 hours or so.

‘That means that prisoners will remain in their cells for the duration and will be fed food on plates pushed through their door hatches.’ 

Another source told the Sun: ‘The jail’s been in panic mode since the first person collapsed.

‘Several hundred prisoners on C-wing are in lockdown and unable to leave their cells. A prison is just about the worst place for any outbreak because everyone is in such close quarters.’

Rumble is due to appear at Oxford Crown Court on February 20, where he is expected to plead non-guilty - but that appearance could now be in doubt

Rumble is due to appear at Oxford Crown Court on February 20, where he is expected to plead non-guilty – but that appearance could now be in doubt

Results from Rumble and the other two potentially infected inmates at HMP Bullingdon in Oxfordshire are expected within 24 hours

Results from Rumble and the other two potentially infected inmates at HMP Bullingdon in Oxfordshire are expected within 24 hours

British alleged drug dealer Mark John Rumble (left) being arrested by Thai police officers at a house in Pattaya

British alleged drug dealer Mark John Rumble (left) being arrested by Thai police officers at a house in Pattaya

Rumble was rushed to hospital and was understood to be in isolation in the jail’s healthcare wing, but is currently being treated at a ‘specialist hospital’ outside of the prison walls.

The prison source told MailOnline: ‘One prisoner was found collapsed in his cell last night. He is understood to have recently arrived at Bullingdon from a jail in Thailand under a transferral scheme.

‘He is being treated at a specialist hospital outside the prison. The two other prisoners were displaying flu-like symptoms and are in Bullingdon’s hospital wing.

‘All three prisoners were in single cells. A nurse who was in close proximity and contact with the collapsed prisoner has self-isolated as a precaution.’

Officials from Public Health England were spotted at the prison and medics in hazmat suits entered the locked down wing. 

The jail holds more than 1,000 inmates – including sex offenders and prisoners on remand. It featured in a four-part ITV documentary on life behinds bars. 

Rumble was arrested in Pattaya, Thailand, last November on suspicion of drugs offences.

He is due to appear at Oxford Crown Court on February 20, where he is expected to plead non-guilty. He is currently on remand.

During his time in Thailand, he posted photos of himself posing with celebrities, including boxing legend Ricky Hatton. 

Steve Walsh, a businessman from Brighton, has unknowingly passed on the coronavirus to at least 11 other people after catching it in Singapore but not becoming ill himself. He is in hospital in London

Steve Walsh, a businessman from Brighton, has unknowingly passed on the coronavirus to at least 11 other people after catching it in Singapore but not becoming ill himself. He is in hospital in London

Stephen Walsh, 53, inadvertently brought coronovirus to the UK having attended a conference in Singapore. Health officials told people he had been in contact with to 'self-isolate'

Stephen Walsh, 53, inadvertently brought coronovirus to the UK having attended a conference in Singapore. Health officials told people he had been in contact with to ‘self-isolate’ 

MailOnline has found at least ten sites in Brighton linked to the city’s super spreader or his infected doctor friend including two schools, two health centres and a care home as the area’s residents accused public health chiefs of starving them of information

Mr Walsh broke his silence after discovering he was the source of an extraordinary web of cases stretching across the UK and Europe.

Risk of the ‘silent carrier’ patients 

Three patients have tested positive for coronavirus after initially being given the all-clear – raising the prospect of ‘silent carriers’.

The cases – reported yesterday in the US and Japan – raise the prospect that people can be infected with the disease while believing they are healthy.

It also calls into question the accuracy of the test, which since the start of the outbreak has returned negative results for 1,350 patients in the UK.

However, scientists claim such occurrences are ‘common’ when patients have not yet entered the ‘diagnostic window’ – when infections are large enough to be detected.

Professor Richard Tedder, an expert in viruses from Imperial College London, explained that if individuals were tested very soon after they have become infected, there may not be enough of the virus in the body to show up on the analysis.

He stressed that ‘on the balance of probability’ these patients were unlikely to be infectious at that time. 

One case involved a Japanese man in his 50s who had fled the Chinese city of Wuhan on an evacuation flight on January 29. 

He was tested twice and both came back negative, but a third test on Monday – 12 days later – was positive. He has been isolated in his hotel room since his return from China.

The second man, who is in his 40s, returned from Wuhan on January 30 and initially tested negative but was diagnosed with the virus on Monday. He is also understood to have been in isolation.  

Professor Tedder, a visiting professor in medical virology, said: ‘This is inevitable when you are sampling people shortly after they have become infected. This is common to all infections – a so-called diagnostic window.

‘I don’t think we should be unduly worried by these cases.’

Speaking from an NHS isolation room, the sales executive yesterday revealed he had ‘fully recovered’ and insisted he acted as quickly as possible once he realised the threat he posed.

Two GP surgeries in his home city of Brighton and Hove have been closed and a nursing home was yesterday placed in lockdown as a precaution.

Meanwhile, several schools have been told to place themselves in quarantine. One of the largest secondary schools in Brighton yesterday told parents a ‘member of its community’ was in quarantine because of suspected coronavirus contact. 

Varndean School, which has around 1,300 pupils, was one of the schools in the city to announce that somebody connected to it had been told to ‘self-isolate’ for 14 days by Public Heath England. 

Parents at Cottesmore St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Hove told of their shock after learning two pupils – thought to be Mr Walsh’s children – were in quarantine.

Carden Primary School and the Hollingbury school, which is opposite the County Oak Medical Centre, are the latest two, according to Brighton and Hove News.

Two Eastbourne schools, Ocklynge Junior School and Ratton secondary school, have also emailed parents after a teacher was told to self-isolate for a fortnight. 

Brighton super spreader Steve Walsh, a cub scout leader and father-of-two from Hove who children refer to as Shere Khan after the tiger from Jungle Book, contracted the virus after travelling to a business conference in Singapore in mid-January.

But after almost two weeks of carrying the virus, authorities discovered he was linked to at least 11 cases in the UK, France and Spain. Yesterday, authorities were still tracking the contacts of Mr Walsh and his five associates – including two GPs – who have also tested positive in the Brighton area over the last few days.

One of the two infected GPs also worked at the A&E unit at Worthing Hospital in West Sussex, which was last night contacting patients and staff to tell them what precautions they should take.

The doctor, who has not been identified, treated a ‘small number’ of patients at the hospital on February 4 and 5 before they became unwell and ‘self-isolated’.

Boris Johnson last night said the UK should be ‘confident and calm’ over the threat of coronavirus. Speaking in Birmingham, the Prime Minister praised the response of the NHS and said anyone concerned should ‘simply follow their advice’.

During Mr Walsh’s 6,736-mile journey home from Singapore, he stopped in the French Alps for a four-day ski holiday.

Several of his associates on the trip have since tested positive. He contacted his GP, the NHS’s 111 helpline and Public Health England as soon as he realised he may have encountered the virus at the conference. ‘I was advised to attend an isolated room at hospital, despite showing no symptoms, and subsequently self-isolated at home as instructed,’ he said. ‘When the diagnosis was confirmed I was sent to an isolation unit in hospital, where I remain, and, as a precaution, my family was also asked to isolate themselves.’ The businessman has been treated at St Thomas’ Hospital in London since his case was confirmed last Thursday.

He is an employee of Servomex, a British gas analytics firm that organised the conference in the Grand Hyatt hotel in Singapore where he and employees in other countries contracted the virus.

After returning home to the UK on January 28, Mr Walsh was told to work from home by his company over then-unfounded concerns about the virus’s circulation at the conference. But he is understood to have gone about his everyday life as normal until February 3 when the company found out that one of the conference’s 94 attendees had contracted the virus.

The cases related to Mr Walsh have prompted authorities to hunt for all those who may have come into contact with him and the other carriers.

Coronavirus could kill 45MILLION people and infect SIXTY PER CENT of the global population if it cannot be controlled, top Hong Kong medical official claims

The killer coronavirus could infect more than 60 per cent of the global population if containment methods fail, a top Hong Kong medical official has claimed.

Professor Gabriel Leung, chair of public health medicine in the city, also said even if the death rate sits at one per cent, it could still kill millions of people. 

With the global population currently at more than 7billion, that means the virus has the potential to infect more than 4billion, if Professor Leung is correct and its spread continues to accelerate. 

And if one per cent of those people die, that means there will be more than 45million deaths. 

But World Health Organization chiefs yesterday urged virologists to stop ‘throwing around figures that there is no basis for’. 

However, the number of new cases reported in China each day has begun to level off, declining five out of the last eight days. 

It doesn’t mean the outbreak – which began at the end of December – has peaked, but scientists tackling the crisis say it is an encouraging sign. 

More than 45,000 people in almost 30 countries have caught the never-before-seen virus, which has been named COVID-19. At least 1,100 have died.

A Chinese woman wears plastic wrap, bags and a protective mask as she walks in a residential neighbourhood in Beijing

A Chinese woman wears plastic wrap, bags and a protective mask as she walks in a residential neighbourhood in Beijing

Professor Gabriel Leung, chair of public health medicine in Hong Kong and pictured at the University of Hong Kong last month, made the comments on a visit to London

Professor Gabriel Leung, chair of public health medicine in Hong Kong and pictured at the University of Hong Kong last month, made the comments on a visit to London

Experts studying the outbreak, which began in the deserted Chinese city of Wuhan, expect cases will continue to increase.

They also say the true toll will be much higher than figures show because thousands of patients have only mild symptoms or are asymptomatic. 

The hope is that, with both knowledge of and the diagnostic test for coronavirus now more widespread, people are being diagnosed more quickly.

This means they can be moved to isolation to contain the spread, which should help keep infections from reaching their maximum potential.  

But Professor Leung told The Guardian during a visit to London that the priority now is to establish the size and shape of the ‘epidemic iceberg’. 

Mike Ryan, the executive director of World Health Organization’s health emergencies programme, said: ‘Everyone is talking about staying calm and keeping our populations calm. 

‘Yet every chance we get we seem like we want to accelerate the infodemic and not contain the epidemic.

‘Let’s be careful in throwing around figures, speculation and scaring people. I just caution everybody to not start throwing around figures that there is no basis for at the moment.’

And on Monday, Dr Nancy Messonnier, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said that she and her agency ‘absolutely assume that the reported cases are an underestimate’ during a National Press Club event. 

Most experts believe that each infected person has gone on to transmit the virus to around 2.5 people, giving an ‘attack rate’ of 60 to 80 per cent.

The death rate, however, is thought to be much lower. Professor Leung expects it to be around one per cent once milder cases, that have not been diagnosed, are taken into account. 

‘Is 60 to 80 per cent of the world’s population going to get infected?,’ he asked, ‘Maybe not. Maybe this virus will come in waves.

‘Maybe the virus is going to attenuate its lethality because it certainly doesn’t help it if it kills everybody in its path, because it will get killed as well.’

Even if the virus reaches just one per cent, many people could still die. Pictured above are emergency workers evacuating residents from public housing in Hong Kong

Even if the virus reaches just one per cent, many people could still die. Pictured above are emergency workers evacuating residents from public housing in Hong Kong

Japan confirms 39 new cases of coronavirus on cruise ship – bringing total 174 cases

Thirty nine new cases of coronavirus have been confirmed on a cruise ship quarantined at a Japanese port.

The update brings the total found on the Diamond Princess to 174 cases.

The ministry also said the virus was confirmed in a official who participated in the initial quarantine checks the night the ship returned to Yokohama Port near Tokyo on February 3. 

The quarantine official is being treated in the hospital.

The new cases bring Japan’s total to 203 people infected by the the new virus, COVID-19.

The night of the ship’s arrival, Japanese health officials began medical checks on all of the ship’s 3,700 passengers and crew after one previous passenger tested positive for the virus.

The U.S.-operated Diamond Princess had completed a 14-day tour during which it stopped at Hong Kong and several other Asian ports before returning to Japan.

Japanese government and tour company officials have said they were notified by Hong Kong that an 80-year-old male passenger who got off the boat there later tested positive for the virus.

After establishing the epidemic’s scale, he said they would then need to establish whether containment methods being used are effective at stopping the spread of the virus. 

The intensity of a outbreak’s spread is based on a measure used by epidemiologists, called R0 – pronounced ‘R naught.’ 

It estimates how many people each infected person infects in turn. In the case of the coronavirus epidemic, the number is around 2.5 people. In contrast, the rate for measles is around 15.

But the actual spread – as opposed to the maximum – fluctuates as more data becomes available and containment methods evolve. 

For example, if a wave of new cases were diagnosed today, in people who might have been infected for some time but were asymptomatic, the spread estimate would increase. 

If tomorrow, a higher percentage of those identified as potentially infected were isolated more quickly, it could lower experts’ estimates of the spread. 

Predicting the epidemic curve – or progression – of coronavirus can help public health agencies prepare for the worst, and give a rough estimate, but these are notoriously inaccurate to the actual intensity of an outbreak, especially in its earliest days. 

Governments worldwide are currently focusing on containment to prevent the spread of the virus but, if it fails, this response will switch to mitigation.

China locked-down cities infected by coronavirus, including Wuhan at the virus’s epicentre, in a desperate effort to stop the disease spreading.

Cruise ships such as the Diamond Princess off the coast of Japan have been isolated after coronavirus cases were identified, and many countries have isolated travellers returning from Wuhan and other areas of China.

There have been allegations that China has not accurately reported the spread of coronavirus and the number of people killed by it, making the virus’s ‘infection iceberg’ harder to figure out.

Wuhan medic Jeisi Luo, not his real name, warned that there are likely many more infections than reported due to limited test kits and the fact that people are dying before they are diagnosed.

‘When preliminary tests determine that a patient has a lung sickness, the nucleic acid test which detects the virus, cannot always be carried out because the waiting list is too long,’ he said. ‘The patient is therefore not diagnosed.’

Medics are instead dealing with the crisis by sending people home with medicine and advising them to ‘self-isolate’.

Social media reports have also alleged that China’s body burning facilities in Wuhan are working flat out, suggesting that the death toll from the virus may be significantly higher than the country has reported. 

Prof Leung pictured talking to journalists during a press conference in Hong Kong in January

Prof Leung pictured talking to journalists during a press conference in Hong Kong in January


Someone who is infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus can spread it with just a simple cough or a sneeze, scientists say.

At least 1,116 people with the virus are now confirmed to have died and more than 45,180 have been infected in at least 28 countries and regions. But experts predict the true number of people with the disease could be 100,000, or even as high as 350,000 in Wuhan alone, as they warn it may kill as many as two in 100 cases.  Here’s what we know so far:

What is the coronavirus? 

A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. Viruses break into cells inside their host and use them to reproduce itself and disrupt the body’s normal functions. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word ‘corona’, which means crown, because they are encased by a spiked shell which resembles a royal crown.

The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It has been named COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019, after it was first discovered at the end of December last year.

Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: ‘Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals. 

‘Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses). 

‘Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known.’ 

The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started publicly reporting infections on December 31.

By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.

The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000.

Just a week after that, there had been more than 800 confirmed cases and those same scientists estimated that some 4,000 – possibly 9,700 – were infected in Wuhan alone. By that point, 26 people had died. 

By January 27, more than 2,800 people were confirmed to have been infected, 81 had died, and estimates of the total number of cases ranged from 100,000 to 350,000 in Wuhan alone.

By January 29, the number of deaths had risen to 132 and cases were in excess of 6,000.  

By February 5, there were more than 24,000 cases and 492 deaths.

By February 11, this had risen to more than 43,000 cases and 1,000 deaths. 

Where does the virus come from?

According to scientists, the virus has almost certainly come from bats. Coronaviruses in general tend to originate in animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to have originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.

The first cases of COVID-19 came from people visiting or working in a live animal market in the city, which has since been closed down for investigation.

Although the market is officially a seafood market, other dead and living animals were being sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat. 

A study by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, published in February 2020 in the scientific journal Nature, found that the genetic make-up virus samples found in patients in China is 96 per cent similar to a coronavirus they found in bats.

However, there were not many bats at the market so scientists say it was likely there was an animal which acted as a middle-man, contracting it from a bat before then transmitting it to a human. It has not yet been confirmed what type of animal this was.

Dr Michael Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, was not involved with the research but said: ‘The discovery definitely places the origin of nCoV in bats in China.

‘We still do not know whether another species served as an intermediate host to amplify the virus, and possibly even to bring it to the market, nor what species that host might have been.’  

So far the fatalities are quite low. Why are health experts so worried about it? 

Experts say the international community is concerned about the virus because so little is known about it and it appears to be spreading quickly.

It is similar to SARS, which infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in an outbreak in Asia in 2003, in that it is a type of coronavirus which infects humans’ lungs.  

Another reason for concern is that nobody has any immunity to the virus because they’ve never encountered it before. This means it may be able to cause more damage than viruses we come across often, like the flu or common cold.

Speaking at a briefing in January, Oxford University professor, Dr Peter Horby, said: ‘Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than viruses which circulate all the time because we have no immunity to them.

‘Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we’re talking about a virus where we don’t understand fully the severity spectrum but it’s possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent.’

If the death rate is truly two per cent, that means two out of every 100 patients who get it will die. 

‘My feeling is it’s lower,’ Dr Horby added. ‘We’re probably missing this iceberg of milder cases. But that’s the current circumstance we’re in.

‘Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 so it is a significant concern globally.’

How does the virus spread?

The illness can spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection. And it may also spread even before someone has symptoms.

It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky. 

Originally, people were thought to be catching it from a live animal market in Wuhan city. But cases soon began to emerge in people who had never been there, which forced medics to realise it was spreading from person to person.

There is now evidence that it can spread third hand – to someone from a person who caught it from another person.

What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?

Once someone has caught the COVID-19 virus it may take between two and 14 days, or even longer, for them to show any symptoms – but they may still be contagious during this time.

If and when they do become ill, typical signs include a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and a fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients – at least 97 per cent, based on available data – will recover from these without any issues or medical help.

In a small group of patients, who seem mainly to be the elderly or those with long-term illnesses, it can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the insides of the lungs swell up and fill with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if left untreated, can be fatal and suffocate people. 

What have genetic tests revealed about the virus? 

Scientists in China have recorded the genetic sequences of around 19 strains of the virus and released them to experts working around the world. 

This allows others to study them, develop tests and potentially look into treating the illness they cause.   

Examinations have revealed the coronavirus did not change much – changing is known as mutating – much during the early stages of its spread.

However, the director-general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said the virus was mutating and adapting as it spread through people.

This means efforts to study the virus and to potentially control it may be made extra difficult because the virus might look different every time scientists analyse it.   

More study may be able to reveal whether the virus first infected a small number of people then change and spread from them, or whether there were various versions of the virus coming from animals which have developed separately.

How dangerous is the virus?  

The virus has so far killed 1,116 people out of a total of at least 45,188 officially confirmed cases – a death rate of around two per cent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish Flu outbreak which, in 1918, went on to kill around 50million people.

However, experts say the true number of patients is likely considerably higher and therefore the death rate considerably lower. Imperial College London researchers estimate that there were 4,000 (up to 9,700) cases in Wuhan city alone up to January 18 – officially there were only 444 there to that date. If cases are in fact 100 times more common than the official figures, the virus may be far less dangerous than currently believed, but also far more widespread. 

Experts say it is likely only the most seriously ill patients are seeking help and are therefore recorded – the vast majority will have only mild, cold-like symptoms. For those whose conditions do become more severe, there is a risk of developing pneumonia which can destroy the lungs and kill you.  

Can the virus be cured? 

The COVID-19 virus cannot currently be cured and it is proving difficult to contain.

Antibiotics do not work against viruses, so they are out of the question. Antiviral drugs can work, but the process of understanding a virus then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.

No vaccine exists for the coronavirus yet and it’s not likely one will be developed in time to be of any use in this outbreak, for similar reasons to the above.

The National Institutes of Health in the US, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this may take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.

Currently, governments and health authorities are working to contain the virus and to care for patients who are sick and stop them infecting other people.

People who catch the illness are being quarantined in hospitals, where their symptoms can be treated and they will be away from the uninfected public.

And airports around the world are putting in place screening measures such as having doctors on-site, taking people’s temperatures to check for fevers and using thermal screening to spot those who might be ill (infection causes a raised temperature).

However, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so there is only a small likelihood that patients will be spotted up in an airport.

Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?   

The outbreak is an epidemic, which is when a disease takes hold of one community such as a country or region. 

Although it has spread to dozens of countries, the outbreak is not yet classed as a pandemic, which is defined by the World Health Organization as the ‘worldwide spread of a new disease’.

The head of WHO’s global infectious hazard preparedness, Dr Sylvie Briand, said: ‘Currently we are not in a pandemic. We are at the phase where it is an epidemic with multiple foci, and we try to extinguish the transmission in each of these foci,’ the Guardian reported.

She said that most cases outside of Hubei had been ‘spillover’ from the epicentre, so the disease wasn’t actually spreading actively around the world.





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