The outbreak of a respiratory virus currently spreading across China began on 3 January 2020, with infected patients suffering from breathing difficulties similar to those experienced by 44 patients in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, 11 of whom were left in a critical condition. This outbreak has led to public health authorities around the world taking notice due to similarities with the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak.
A recent academic article published in the New England Journal of Medicine on January 29, 2020 discussed 2019-nCoV in Wuhan and concluded that the majority of infected patients are elderly, with approximately 56 percent male and 44 percent female.
The majority of cases (55 percent) with onset before January 1, 2020, were linked to Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. Only 8.6 percent of subsequent cases, i.e. those with onset of the disease occurring after January 1, 2020, show a possibility of human-to-human transmission. The average incubation period is 5.2 days.
This 2019 outbreak is the 7th strain of the Coronavirus capable of spreading to humans. Although we do not yet know how humans first contracted this strain of the disease, there are a number of factors that can place someone at risk of becoming infected, including contact with an infected patient or contact with surfaces contaminated by the mucous, saliva and phlegm of infected patients. Furthermore, there are a number of ways this virus can enter the body, including through the nose, mouth and eyes. Exposure to coughs, sneezes, and air pollution like that found in PM2.5 can also spread the virus.