The coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, began at an animal and seafood market in the city of Wuhan and has since spread to several other countries, including the United States. The illness is now said to be transferable between humans.
As news of the virus spread and death tolls began to spike, many have begun to question how dangerous the new outbreak is. Coronaviruses, which get their name from their crown-like appearance, come in many types that cause illnesses in people and animals.
Most coronaviruses cause mild symptoms such as the common cold that patients easily recover from. Other strains of the virus such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) can cause pneumonia and possible death.
SARS killed 770 of 8,000 people infected in 2002-2003. MERS killed about three or four out of every 10 people infected, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.
In an effort to curb the spread of the disease, the city of Wuhan shut down all air and train traffic to contain it. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Jan. 22 it would hold off on declaring a public health emergency of global concern.
Ghebreyesus said the committee needed another day to discuss the issue and come to a decision.
CDC officials said they were monitoring the situation and, for now, "the immediate health risk from 2019-nCoV to the general American public is considered low at this time."
Investigations to learn more about the coronavirus were ongoing, the CDC said.
"Investigations into this novel coronavirus are ongoing and we are monitoring and responding to this evolving situation,” said Martin Cetron, director of the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine.
Human coronaviruses are passed through coughing and sneezing, close personal contact, touching objects with the virus on it and then touching the mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands, according to the CDC.
The CDC and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) started screening passengers to detect ill travelers arriving at airports in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta on direct or connecting flights from Wuhan.
Sen. Tom Cotton has raised concerns about a Chinese cover-up of the virus as it spreads to various countries. In a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Cotton urged Azar to vet information from China, given its history of cover-ups during the SARS outbreak. At the time, China didn't announce the disease to the public until five months after it began.
"If you have reason to believe that U.S. officials are being provided with false or misleading information about the disease from Chinese government officials, I ask you to notify Congress immediately," Cotton wrote.
He noted that banning entry into the U.S. from those traveling from China could be a possibility. China reportedly warned lower-level officials not to cover up the spread of the new coronavirus.
FOX News' Madeline Farber contributed to this report.
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