Science and Health

Coronavirus Outbreak Infects More Than 900 In China

Global health officials are working to understand and contain a coronavirus outbreak that has so far infected more than 900 people.

Coronavirus Outbreak Infects More Than 900 In China
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The coronavirus outbreak that reportedly originated in Wuhan, China, had infected more than 900 people as of Friday. But as cases begin to pop up in France and the U.S., health officials are working to gather information about the virus — and prevent a possible pandemic.

Coronavirus is common among both animals and people. The virus' name comes from its structure, which resembles the sun's corona.

According to the CDC, coronaviruses "usually cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses," like the common cold. But they can sometimes cause lower-respiratory tract illness, like pneumonia or bronchitis.

Health officials believe the newest strain may have been transmitted to humans from animals sold in a Wuhan market. 

So, just how dangerous is it? Well, it may still be too early to say.

Paul Stamper is a faculty research associate at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. He said: "There's a lot happening, and it seems that many of the health professionals are very involved. It seems like the U.S. government is actually well aware and on top of the situation."

He said that people with chronic illness are most at risk, but the current mortality rate seems to be "somewhere around 4%." He said the situation is evolving "very quickly" and global health organizations are responding as "appropriately as they can with so little information" available.

Stamper said: "It seems the health professionals, both in the U.S. and abroad, are starting to monitor travelers. Definitely China has put a quarantine on several of their larger cities, and it seems to be evolving fast."

Stamper added that several other countries are screening travelers as they enter and leave, "looking mostly for fever." Enhanced screenings are also happening at U.S. airports, including in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco.