4 things to know about the China coronavirus

The United Kingdom and Italy are investigating suspected cases of coronavirus, which has killed 18 people in China and put the city at the epicenter of the outbreak on lockdown.

Five people in Scotland were being tested Thursday after showing symptoms of coronavirus, the BBC reported. They had all been in the Chinese city of Wuhan in the past two weeks, according to the report. In Italy, a woman has been hospitalized with flu-like symptoms since Wednesday after returning from a tour of the region, which included a stop in Wuhan, according to HuffPost.

If confirmed, they would be the first cases of the illness in Europe.

Chinese authorities have clamped down on travel in Wuhan and three other cities in the central province of Hubei to prevent further spread of the virus. However, the World Health Organization opted against declaring a global health emergency Thursday evening after two days of heated deliberations by a committee of experts.

With the number of known cases at around 600, and the threat of further spread of the virus putting authorities on high alert, there are plenty of unknowns surrounding the severity, duration and transmission risks, as well as what effectively fights the disease.

Here are four key things to know:

The virus isnt brand new — but the public health risk is a mystery

The Wuhan illness is part of a family known as coronaviruses. They often feel like a common cold or an upper respiratory tract infection, with fever, cough and a runny nose. More severe cases can turn into pneumonia or kidney failure, according to the WHO.

But officials still dont know how infectious this particular virus is. Britains health department issued clinical guidance for the detection and diagnosis of the virus and Public Health England developed a diagnostic test, “making the U.K. one of the first countries outside China to have a prototype specific laboratory test for this new disease,” the department said Wednesday.

U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs on Thursday that the countrys National Health Service was fully prepared to deal with any cases that may arise.

The U.K. is one of three European countries with direct flight connections to Wuhan, and had imposed enhanced monitoring on them before the Chinese authorities shut down those connections.

Chinese passengers, almost all wearing protective masks, arrive for the annual Spring Festival in Beijing | Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

In Romes Fiumicino airport, some 200 passengers who got off a flight from Wuhan were checked in the early morning on Thursday for any signs of the virus, but none of them showed any symptoms, DPA reported.

Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza said he was in constant contact with the European Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, who is coordinating the EU response.

Meanwhile in France, the Chinese embassy issued a warning urging people to comply with airport checks after a woman from Wuhan said she had evaded screenings in order to fly to Paris to visit a restaurant.

Officials still dont know how easy it is to catch the virus

Coronaviruses are common in animals, and sometimes they evolve and can infect humans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. WHO officials have confirmed this strain can spread from one person to another. So far this was only confirmed in China, and it appears to be limited to family members or health workers caring for infected patients, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday. “At this time, there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission outside [China], but that doesnt mean it wont happen,” he said.

Almost half of those who died were aged 80 or over and most of them had pre-existing health problems, Chinese health authorities said Thursday, according to South China Morning Post. Children have also been infected, but they arent highly susceptible to the virus, they said.

The youngest person who died was 48 and the oldest 89, according to the same report.

Patients should be isolated, authorities say

The Italian ministry on Wednesday sent health professionals and other parties a note about the way to proceed if cases arise in Italy.

People suspected of being infected with the virus should be checked in a separate area of the hospital and isolated from other patients. They should also wear a surgical mask if they can tolerate it, the ministryRead More – Source