HOUSTON — Anytime a fast-spreading deadly illness makes headlines around the world, people get nervous. 

But when it comes to a new type of human coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, your chances of becoming seriously ill are very slim, at this point. 

Since it originated at a Wuhan seafood market in China, thousands of people there have become ill and hundreds have died. 

As of Feb. 3, there are fewer than a dozen cases in the U.S. and no deaths.

Here are eleven fast facts about coronaviruses from the Centers for Disease Control.

1. Scientists know of seven different coronaviruses that can infect people and make them sick, including the new one from China.

2. Most people get infected with at least one common human coronavirus at some point in their lives.

3. Most human coronaviruses cause only mild to moderate illness in people worldwide.

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4. Symptoms often mimic the common cold or upper respiratory virus. They may include runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat, fever or a general feeling of being unwell.

5. Infants, older adults and people with underlying medical issues and/or weakened immune systems are more likely to get lower-respiratory tract illnesses, such as pneumonia or bronchitis.


6. The MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) coronavirus, first reported in 2012 in Saudi Arabia, caused severe acute respiratory illness in most patients. It spread to at least 25 countries but only two cases have been reported in the U.S. Both patients were healthcare workers who lived and worked in Saudi Arabia.

7. SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) was another deadly coronavirus. It was first reported in Asia in 2003. It spread to more than two dozen countries in North America, South America, Europe and Asia, but was contained by 2004.

8. Human coronaviruses are usually spread through:

  • The air by coughing or sneezing
  • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.

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9. There are currently no vaccines or specific treatments for illnesses caused by human coronaviruses. Researchers at UTMB in Galveston are working on a vaccine. 

10. The best ways to reduce your risk include:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people.

11. Coronaviruses are common in many different species of animals, including camels and bats. Experts don’t understand why only certain coronaviruses are able to infect people.

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Source: Centers for Disease Control