What is the new coronavirus?

This is part 1 of our coronavirus FAQ. Click here to read the other installments: #Coronavirus the facts. Find the latest information and answers from experts on everything COVID-19.

Q: What is a coronavirus?

A coronavirus is a virus that infects animals, including humans. In rare cases they can transmit from animal to human. Some cause symptoms similar to those of a common cold, such as coughing, fever and runny nose. Others can lead to pneumonia or other serious problem. Both SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) were examples of a coronavirus.

Q: What are the symptoms of the new coronavirus?

The coronavirus that has caused the global pandemic is a new strain. People develop symptoms such as fever, coughs, fatigue, phlegm, shortness of breath, sore throats and headaches.

Experts from the World Health Organization and other organizations analyzed the symptoms of 55,924 people who were confirmed to have been infected in China by February 20.

Their report says 87.9 percent of the patients had fevers, 67.7 percent were coughing, 38.1 percent complained of tiredness, and 33.4 percent had phlegm. Other symptoms included shortness of breath, sore throat and headaches.

Those who were infected developed the symptoms in five to six days on average.

About 80 percent of the infected had relatively mild symptoms. Less than 14 percent became seriously ill.

People aged 60 or above, and those with underlying medical problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart problems, chronic respiratory illnesses and cancer, were more likely to develop serious or fatal symptoms. There were few reports of children getting infected or becoming seriously ill. Only 2.4 percent of those infected were 18 years old or younger.

Dr. Satoshi Kutsuna of the National Center for Global Health and Medicine has treated patients who tested positive for the virus in Japan. He says the patients he saw had runny noses, sore throats and coughs, and all had tiredness and fevers of 37 degrees or higher that lasted for about a week.

Dr. Kutsuna says some people developed higher fevers after a week. He says the symptoms tend to last longer than in cases of seasonal flu or other viral infections.

The data presented here are correct as of March 19, 2020.