Coronavirus: Who is most at-risk?

After the initial outbreak of the coronavirus in the Chinese city of Wuhan, medical professionals have examined what physiological archetypes and age groups might have a greater risk of contracting the disease, in an effort to educate the public.

Fox News spoke with Dr. Debra Chew, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, to gain a better understanding of the virus and how it behaves.

"Risks of contracting disease is based on epidemiologic exposure -- and therefore exposure to persons infected with the Wuhan Coronavirus, and those ill with respiratory symptoms who have traveled to Wuhan or neighboring cities," she said. "This may expand with more cases and global travel."

Chew, who completed an Infectious Diseases fellowship at Albert Einstein/Montefiore Medical Center, said it's unclear if pregnant women are at greater risk than others, but confirmed that young people, senior citizens and those with immune deficiencies could have an acute reaction if exposed to the virus.

"We are not clear if there are other host risks, including risk of transmission to various groups of people including pregnant women and different age groups," she said. "We do know that the young, elderly and those with immuno-compromised host immune system and chronic medical conditions can get more severe illness."


As for the virus having an incubation period, Chew said the timetable is unclear, but estimated that anyone who's been infected should become symptomatic within five days.

"Generally, coronaviruses as a family have a short incubation period of up to five days, and recent cases with Wuhan Coronavirus is consistent with this," she explained. "CDC [the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and WHO [World Health Organization] are actively investigating much more about the virus and illness characteristics."

Most coronaviruses cause only mild symptoms, similar to that of the common cold. Other strains, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), can cause pneumonia and death.

It has been three weeks since Chinese officials announced the outbreak of the new virus. More than 600 people have been sickened and 17 have died since then.

The coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, began at an animal and seafood market in Wuhan and has spread to several other countries, including the United States. The illness is said to be transferable between humans.


Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough and shortness of breath. There aren't many preemptive steps that can be taken to avoid infection, other than practicing basic sanitary measures on a regular basis.

The CDC recommends washing your hands regularly and avoiding contact with other sick people who are recovering from an illness. They also suggest avoiding touching your eyes and face, along with keeping objects and surfaces in your home or workspace clean and disinfected.

Fox News' Alexandria Hein contributed to this report.

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