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Coronavirus continues to spread, but risk of infection in Austin is low

AUSTIN (KXAN) – 17 people are dead and hundreds have been infected as the Wuhan Coronavirus continues its spread around the globe. Earlier today, China announced plans to quarantine the city of Wuhan, where the virus originated. The government also announced they were shutting down all public transportation in the city as part of their effort to prevent further infection. The World Health Organization is now considering whether to declare a global emergency, a decision they plan to announce tomorrow.

Here in Texas, however, risk of infection is low according to Dr Matthew C. Robinson, an expert in infectious diseases with St. David’s South Austin Medical Center. “The current coronavirus in discussion is a novel virus that has not been seen before.” Dr Robinson says there is good news. Even if you have symptoms, you’re unlikely to have the virus. “As long as you don’t have any link to having been in China in a couple weeks before your illness onset… your risk of the coronavirus are essentially zero.”

Symptoms of the Coronavirus

Symptoms for the virus are similar to a cold, making it hard to differentiate it from common winter illnesses. Infected suffer from a runny nose, cough, sore throat, headache and fever. If the infection worsens, infection can cause pneumonia, lethargy, kidney failure and eventually death. The elderly and young seem to be at a greater risk for the more severe symptoms.

These symptoms are similar to the SARS virus that plagued China in 2003. During that outbreak, nearly eight hundred people died and thousands around the world were infected. Both diseases are coronaviruses. These viruses are distinct because of their shape when viewed through an electron microscope, looking similar to a crown or halo.

Origins of the virus

The Wuhan Coronavirus was first reported in Wuhan, China this past December. Many of the early infected visited or worked at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan. This market is currently being investigated as ground zero. Officials believe the virus originated in animals sold at the market before it spreads to people. The virus is now believed to spread person to person, through the air. The SARS virus has a similar origin and can also be traced to infection from an animal.

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