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The coronavirus outbreak has sparked alarm and reshaped the daily routines of millions of people as the number of cases rises around the world and authorities work to stop its spread.

The outbreak continues to wane in China, where the virus was first detected in December. Clusters of disease have emerged in South Korea, Italy and Iran and 144 other countries as of March 16, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

That includes more than 168,000 cases globally with more than 6,600 deaths reported. The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared the virus a global pandemic.

As this is a constantly updating issue, the best way to keep track of the numbers is to use the WHO situation map.

Here's what you need to know about virus and the scope of the crisis.

Q: What is a coronavirus?

A: The World Health Organization defines coronaviruses as a large family of viruses that can cause illness in animals or humans. Several are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19.

Q. What are the symptoms?

A. Fever, tiredness and dry cough are among the most common, while aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat and diarrhea can occur. People who have been diagnosed have reported symptoms that may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure to the virus. Some people become infected but fail to develop symptoms and don't feel unwell.

Q. How is it spread?

A. Through small droplets from the nose or mouth when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. Some spread is possible before people show symptoms, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Q. How many cases have been reported in the United States and in Michigan?

A. For the most up-to-date information on number of cases, see this world map and this U.S. map from the CDC. 

The Centers for Disease Control website on Thursday listed 1,678 total cases reported in 46 states and the District of Columbia and 41 dead. But the figures did not include people who returned to the U.S. via State Department-chartered flights.

In Michigan, there are now 54 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 infection and no deaths. 

Get more information on what Michigan is doing about COVID-19 here

Q. What are the symptoms that determine whether someone is tested for the coronavirus?

A. ►Any person who had close contact with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patient within 14 days of the symptom onset and has a fever or lower respiratory illness, such as a cough or shortness of breath.

►Any individual with a fever and lower respiratory illness (such as a cough or shortness of breath) requiring hospitalization as well as a history of travel from the five countries with widespread community transmission — China, Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea — within 14 days of symptom onset.

►Any person with a fever, a severe acute lower respiratory illness (such as pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome) requiring hospitalization, without an alternative explanatory diagnosis (such as influenza) and no source of exposure has been identified.

Q. Does a cure exist?

A. There are no proven treatments. In China, scientists have been testing a combination of HIV drugs against the new coronavirus, as well as an experimental drug named remdesivir that was in development to fight Ebola. In the U.S., the University of Nebraska Medical Center also began testing remdesivir in some Americans who were found to have COVID-19 after being evacuated from a cruise ship in Japan.

It’s not clear how quickly such studies will answer whether any of the drugs help. 

President Donald Trump and members of his Cabinet have met at the White House with executives of 10 pharmaceutical companies to learn ways to speed the development of a vaccine for the coronavirus.

Q. How can I protect myself from infection?

A. ►Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds each time.

►Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing. Avoid contact with people who are sick and stay at least 3 feet away from someone coughing or wheezing. Stay home if you are sick. 

State health department spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin said Wednesday people should do the same kinds of things they would do with any respiratory illness, such as the flu or common cold.

"Washing your hands is the preferred method," she said. "If you don't have access to soap and water, a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol will be effective. But hand washing is the main thing."

If you're sick, the best thing you can do is stay home, she said. And people should try to avoid contact with other people who are sick.

"It's just basic, good hygiene is the thing that is going to help keep you healthy."

Scott Turske, a spokesman for the Macomb County Health Department, said hand washing and avoiding people who have the virus are the most effective ways to combat the disease.

"And if in a public place, maybe use your elbow to to get paper towel from  dispenser," he said.

Turske also said hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol in it will also work if soap and water aren't readily available.

In addition, avoid sharing flatware, cups or bottles with others. 

He also said to make sure surfaces where you work or eat are frequently disinfected.

Further, U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell and Paul Mitchell are recommending people avoid handshakes. 

Q. Should I cancel a trip?

A. The CDC provides recommendations on postponing or canceling travel called travel notices, which are based on assessment of the potential health risks involved with traveling to certain areas. A list of destinations is available here.

Q. Any other measures to prevent the spread or analyze the impact?

A. The CDC recently broadened its guidelines for who should be tested for the new virus to include people with symptoms but without a travel history to virus hot zones. More testing will bring more confirmed cases, experts said, but they cautioned that does not mean the virus is gaining speed. Instead, the testing is likely to reveal a picture of the virus’ spread that was previously invisible.

Democratic and Republican aides in the U.S. say negotiations on a bipartisan, emergency $7 billion to $8 billion measure to battle the new coronavirus are almost complete. The measure appears on track to be unveiled as early as Tuesday, and the hope is to speed it quickly through the House and Senate by the end of the week.

The measure would finance federal and state response efforts, fund the federal government’s drive to develop and produce a vaccine, and offer Small Business Administration disaster loans to help businesses directly affected by the growing coronavirus crisis.

In Michigan, activation of the State Emergency Operations Center is among many efforts across state government to prepare for a potential spread of the disease. The center is staffed by emergency managers from every state department, who gathered there Friday morning to coordinate Michigan's response. 

Information is available on the state website. You can also get more up-to-date information from the CDC or the WHO websites. 

Source: World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Associated Press

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