WVUA 23 News Reporter Amber Boswell

A new virus similar to SARS has made its way from China to the Western U.S.

The coronavirus outbreak has so far spread to at least five different countries including Thailand, Japan, South Korea and Washington state in the U.S.

Hundreds of people in China have become ill from the coronavirus, and several deaths have been reported. Like severe acute respiratory syndrome, symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. In most cases the illness is mild, but some people affected may become seriously ill or contract pneumonia.

University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences Chair of Community Medicine and Population Health Dr. John Higginbotham said the person in Washington who contracted the virus was traveling in China recently.

The question on everyone’s mind is “How is this virus transmitted?”

“One of the ways they believe it is spread is by person to person contact or close interaction like coughing, so all sorts of things can spread the virus,” Higginbotham said.

Ways to help prevent spread of the coronoavirus and other common viruses include washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.

Higginbotham said there is not yet a vaccine for this virus.

If you’re ill, the best ways to protect others include staying home while you’re sick, avoiding close contact with others, covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and washing your hands after, and cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces you touch.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is monitoring people traveling from areas affected by the virus, but your odds of getting the virus are low in the U.S. at the moment.

For more information about coronavirus, visit the CDC’s website.

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