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Scientists race to unlock secrets of the coronavirus

What medicine knows about origins, risks and curability

Coronaviruses -- such as SARS, seasonal flu and the new strain that originated in China -- all have characteristic crownlike spikes. (Nikkei montage/Reuters, Kyodo)

TOKYO -- The coronavirus epidemic is the most threatening disease crisis to emerge from China since the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, in 2002. Like SARS, it threatens to spread to many countries: "This epidemic represents a clear and ongoing global health threat," says one study.

Since Dec. 1, when the first person is believed to have contracted the disease in Wuhan, scientists and doctors have been racing to find out how it spreads, how dangerous it is, and how it can be contained. Some aspects of the coronavirus are very worrying, but others offer a degree of reassurance.

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