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Fighting the new coronavirus has been a battle against the unknown for doctors.

How does it attack the body? What are the full range of symptoms? Who is more likely to be seriously ill or die? How do you treat it?

Studies by doctors at the front line of the epidemic in Wuhan, China, have started to provide answers.
Mostly mild

A report by the Chinese Centres of Disease Control looked at more than 44,000 confirmed cases of the disease.

It showed:
81% develop mild symptoms
14% develop severe symptoms
5% become critically ill

Men and women are equally likely to be infected, contrary to early reports that suggested the disease affected mostly men.
Fever and lung assault

The virus, Sars-CoV-2, infects the tissues and airways deep inside the lungs rather than the nose.

Fever, fatigue and a dry cough are the most common symptoms for patients being admitted to hospitals.

But not everybody has all these symptoms, teams at Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University and Jinyintan Hospital, in Wuhan, say.

Other symptoms were:
31% had shortness of breath
11% had muscle ache
9% had confusion
8% had a headache
5% had a sore throat

The disease can progress to pneumonia - inflammation of the lungs and the tiny sacs where oxygen moves from the air to the blood filling with water - and ultimately organ failure.

But all these studies are based on the most severely ill patients that end up in hospital. Many of the mildest cases are going undetected.
First deaths

The first two patients to die at Jinyintan Hospital, detailed in the Lancet Medical journal, were seemingly healthy, although they were long-term smokers and that would have weakened their lungs.

The first, a 61-year-old man, had severe pneumonia when he arrived at hospital.

He was in acute respiratory distress, meaning his lungs were unable to provide enough oxygen to his organs to keep his body alive.

Despite being put on a ventilator, his lungs failed and his heart stopped beating.

He died 11 days after he was admitted.

The second patient, a 69-year-old man, also had acute respiratory distress syndrome.

He was attached to an artificial lung or ECMO (extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation) machine but this wasn't enough.

He died of severe pneumonia and septic shock when his blood pressure collapsed.
The oldest are most likely to die

There is a marked pattern in the reported death rates from the disease.

Less than 0.5% of patients aged under 50 have died, according to the Chinese Centres of Disease Control.

However, that figure spikes rapidly to:
1.3% in their 50s
3.6% in their 60s
8% in their 70s
15% over 80

These are not the true death rates, as some patients still being treated may yet die and many mild cases are going unnoticed.
And those who were already sick

The death rate for people with no other health problems is 0.9%.

However, this rises to:
6% in people with high blood pressure
6% in people with long-term lung problems such as those caused by a lifetime of smoking
7% in people with diabetes
11% in people with cardiovascular disease

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