Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe and deadly diseases.
The World Health Organization has recently declared a global health emergency over a new coronavirus that has killed several people in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
The coronaviruses were originally transmitted between animals and people.
The name coronavirus comes from the Latin word corona, meaning crown or halo. Under an electron microscope, the image of the virus looks like a solar corona.
The novel coronavirus, identified by Chinese authorities recently and named 2019-nCoV, is a new strain that had not been previously identified in humans.
Common signs of infection include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases chest infection, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and death.
Infected patients can also be asymptomatic, meaning they do not display any of the symptoms above, despite having the virus in their systems.
The incubation period according to some sources, could be between 10 and 14 days.
Scientists are working on a vaccine but have warned that one is unlikely to be available for mass distribution before 2021.
There is no known specific treatment for the virus at present. WHO is helping to accelerate research and development efforts with a range of partners.
People are therefore urged to follow best practices in hand and respiratory hygiene and handling food in order to reduce exposure and transmission of the new virus.
There are standard recommendations to prevent the spread of infection such as regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.