T he NHS is advising doctors that the virus is also likely to be contained in other bodily secretions including in blood, faeces and urine.
Here again, hand and surface hygiene is the key.
How can I protect my family, especially children?
Children are a major vector for the spread of droplet-based viruses because they interact physically so much with each other and are not the best at keeping themselves clean.
However, you can greatly lower the risk that children pose of spreading or catching viruses by:
- Explaining to them how germs spread and the importance of good hand and face hygiene
- Keeping household surfaces clean, especially kitchens, bathrooms and door handles
- Using clean cloths to wipe surfaces, so you don't transfer germs from one surface to another
- Giving everyone their own towel and making sure they know not to share toothbrushes etc
- Keep your home dry and airy (bugs thrive in musty environments)
What about face masks, do they work?
Paper face masks are not generally recommended by the NHS for ordinary citizens – with good reason.
They are ill-fitting and what protection they might initially provide soon expires. Worse, they quickly become moist inside providing the perfect environment for germs to thrive in. They also become a hazard for others if carelessly discarded.
However, an exception to this would be if you were displaying symptoms such as coughing or sneezing – then a mask may help prevent you spreading the virus to others in busy locations.
In hospitals, healthcare workers treating patients with the virus will wear masks but these are specialist devices and there are strict protocols they must follow to ensure they remain safe and effective.
Can the new coronavirus be treated?
T here is no simple cure for the new coronaviruses – just as there is no cure for the common cold.
In more severe cases, the virus causes pneumonia, an infection that inflames the lungs and causes breathing difficulty. This is where the main danger lies.
Viral pneumonia cannot be treated with antibiotics and, for the moment at least, there are no antivirals specific to this particular virus.
Instead doctors focus on supporting patients' lung function as best they can. They may be given oxygen or placed on a breathing machine (ventilator) in the most severe cases.
Other symptoms such as fever and discomfort will be treated using drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Secondary infections may be treated with antibiotics.
Are some groups of people more at risk than others?
Data from China suggests that people of all ages are at risk of contracting the virus .
However, as with most respiratory illnesses, it is likely to be the young and old who are most at risk once infected. People with a reduced chance of surviving pneumonia include:
Those over age 65
Children under the age of two
People with underlying health conditions or a weakened immune system
As data accumulates, a much clearer picture of the particular risk groups for the new virus will emerge and will be updated here:
Is there a vaccine for the new coronavirus?
There is currently no vaccine but researchers in the US, UK and China have already begun working on one, thanks to China's prompt sharing of the virus's genetic code.
However, any potential vaccine will not be available for up to a year and would most likely be given to health workers most at risk of contracting the virus first.
For now, it is a case of containment. China has started building several 1,000-bed hospitals to treat patients which it hopes to finish within days.
Capacity to treat patients who require both ventilation and isolation will also be the biggest challenge for the NHS if the virus takes hold in the UK.
Coronaviruses | How to reduce your risk of infection
- Clean your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub
- Cover nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with a tissue or flexed elbow
- Avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms
- Thoroughly cook meat and eggs
- No unprotected contact with live wild or farm animals