The outbreak of this novel coronavirus has been declared a public health emergency. With all these horror stories emerging on the internet and social media, it is important to not only put it into perspective, but also to know how you can protect yourself by knowing where it came from and how to prevent it.

The origins of the virus have been tracked down to a sea food market located in the central territory of Wuhan in China. This was not only one of the worst places for the virus to begin but also the worst time; Wuhan is a major transport hub in China and the first cases of the virus started just before the lunar new year, known to be the time of one of the biggest annual migrations. This is probably how the virus spread to 23 countries and infected almost 8000 people.

This specific coronavirus belongs to a family of coronaviruses. It is so new that it does not yet have its own name. Coronaviruses are usually passed between animals and only 6 known coronaviruses are known to infect humans. However, this coronavirus is a different kind of deadly; it is one of the first to be able to spread directly from person to person. It also currently has no treatment; antibiotics only work against bacteria and there are no flu drugs that are working.

The symptoms include a dry cough, fever and breathing problems. It is also thought that, in extreme cases, it can cause viral pneumonia and severe lung disease. Although it spreads quickly, it is thought that most people who catch it already have a weak immune system to begin with due to underlying conditions or old age. Regardless, the public has been instructed to avoid crowds, avoid handling animals and to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds after touching surfaces in public areas.

Although the first two cases have been confirmed in the UK, it is important to note that the virus has an extremely low death rate of just 2%; compared to Ebola with a death rate of over 50% and SARS with a rate of 10%, the virus is not as deadly as it seems. The virus currently has a death toll of 170 which, in retrospect, is not significantly large compared to other viruses and diseases.

By Amelie Hogan