COLUMBIA, S.C. — Major U.S. airports are screening international passengers to prevent the virus from spreading.

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that get their name from the crownlike prongs on the surface of the virus. Corona in Latin means halo or crown.

These types of viruses are common and typically affect the respiratory tract of mammals.  The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports say scientists are aware of seven coronaviruses that can make people sick. Many of the virus strains are mild with symptoms similar to the common cold. In fact, most people have been hit with one of these viruses at some point in their life.

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However, a few strains can be serious and can cause pneumonia, kidney failure and death. Severe acute respiratory syndrome known as “SARS” and the Middle east respiratory syndrome known as “MERS” virus are similar newer coronaviruses that can make people sick.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and CDC are now keeping an eye on a new form of the coronavirus circulating in China and other Asian countries. Preliminary information suggests that older adults and people with underlying health conditions may be at increased risk for severe disease from this virus.

The outbreak of this new virus began this past December and is spreading.  The CDC identifies a seafood market suspected to be at the center of the outbreak.  It is closed on 1 January 2020.

How Does it Spread?

Global health officials are puzzled. This particular strain of the virus appears to spread from animals to humans and through human contact, but health experts do not understand how easily this virus is being spread or how it may affect people.

Can Coronaviruses Be Treated?

After examining the virus, scientists do know there is no specific treatment for this group of viruses.  Pain and fever medication can help relieve some of the milder symptoms.

How Can You Prevent Infection?

There is no vaccine available to prevent the virus.  If you want to reduce your risk of getting infected, wash your hands often with soap and water or hand sanitizer, try to avoid people who are sick and touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

Based on the current information, the risk of this virus to the American public is low. Nevertheless, the CDC is being proactive to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the United States.

If you recently traveled internationally and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing call your medical provider.

For up to date CDC information about the coronavirus virus click here: