A NEW virus is causing severe lung disease in China and has already killed 17 people.

The coronavirus has infected more than 570 people and the World Health Organisation is set to meet for a second day to determine whether the outbreak should be categorised as an international health emergency.

Here’s everything we know about it so far.

What is a coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that can cause a whole range of symptoms. These include a runny nose, cough, sore throat and fever.

Some coronaviruses can be mild, while the more severe end of the spectrum can lead to pneumonia.

This new coronavirus is called 2019-nCoV and has never been detected before.

What are the symptoms of the new virus?

Symptoms include having a fever, cough, shortness of breath, troubled breathing, aches, sore throat or vomiting and diarrhoea.

The virus can cause pneumonia.

What can doctors do about it?

Because this is a viral pneumonia, antibiotics do not work.

Those admitted into hospital will get breathing support as well as fluids, but recovery will depend on the strength of the patient’s immune system.

Those who have already died are said to have been in poor health.

Where did it come from?

The virus itself comes from animals, with suggestions that this particular strand came from seafood.

It is believed that the virus started in Wuhan, China.

Both Wuhan and Huanggang have been put into lockdown by Chinese authorities to help control the spread of the virus.

Ledbury Reporter:

(An airport staff member at Wuhan airport checking for the virus before the travel ban. Picture: PA.)

How is it transmitted?

Chinese authorities have confirmed that the infection has been spread through human-to-human contact.

A cough, sneeze or handshake could cause exposure; and the virus may also be transmitted by touching something an infected person has touched and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.

There isn’t an awful lot known about how it is transmitted, though, and experts are trying to understand who is transmitting it the most, who is at most risk and where transmission hotspots are.

What has the government said?

Dr Nick Phin, Deputy Director, National Infection Service, Public Health England, said:

“This is a new and rapidly evolving situation where information on cases and the virus is being gathered and assessed daily.

“Based on the available evidence, the current risk to the UK is considered low. We are working with the WHO and other international partners, have issued advice to the NHS and are keeping the situation under constant review.

“If you are travelling to Wuhan, you should maintain good hand, respiratory and personal hygiene and should avoid visiting animal and bird markets or people who are ill with respiratory symptoms.

“Individuals should seek medical attention if they develop respiratory symptoms within 14 days of visiting Wuhan, either in China or on their return to the UK. They should phone ahead before attending any health services and mention their recent travel to the city.”

Should I be worried?

At the moment, no.

There are no reported cases in the UK, let alone in Shropshire, Worcestershire or Herefordshire.

And experts say there is no need for people to change travel plans.

Basic hygiene measures such as washing hands are a sensible precaution.