How It Spread?

Most spread is from droplets produced when an infected person coughs, which are inhaled by people nearby. The virus can live in the air for several hours, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. Cleaning surfaces with solutions containing diluted bleach should kill it.

How fast does it spread? Each infected person spreads to two or three others on average, researchers estimate. It spreads more easily than flu but less than measles, tuberculosis or some other respiratory diseases. It is not known if it spreads less easily among children, but fewer of them have been diagnosed with the disease. A study of 1,099 patients in China found that 0.9% of the cases were younger than 15.

What are the symptoms? Most people get fever and cough, sometimes fatigue or shortness of breath, and recover after about two weeks. About 15% develop severe disease, including pneumonia, Chinese scientists reported from 45,000 cases there. Symptoms usually start slowly and often worsen as the illness goes on.

When is the virus the most contagious? The average time from exposure to developing symptoms is five to six days, but can be up to two weeks. Tests have found high amounts of virus in the throats and noses of people a couple days before they show symptoms.

How deadly is it? That won't be known until large studies are done to test big groups of people to see how many have been infected and with or without symptoms.

Scientists have estimated the fatality rate from less than 1% to as high as 4% among cases diagnosed so far, depending on location.

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