Photo Credit: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Israel’s Health Ministry issued a travel warning this weekend, telling citizens not to travel to the city of Wuhan and its surrounding areas as nearly 2,000 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed since an outbreak began last month in the city.

Israelis are urged to avoid all travel to the region unless it is “absolutely critical.” The Health Ministry said it is “in contact with all the international bodies and experts in Israel and abroad. The public will be continuously updated on developments.”

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The virus has so far killed 55 people and infected thousands worldwide. The outbreak apparently started in a market in Wuhan, the capital of the central Chinese Hubei province.

It has since reached the United States, and it was also believed to have reached Israel as well; however, those fears were laid to rest after the suspected cases were thoroughly evaluated under strict quarantine and found to be different illnesses.

China said on Saturday that it plans to suspend all tour groups and sales of flight and hotel packages for its own citizens traveling overseas, beginning Monday. Those groups already abroad would be allowed to continue, but were told to closely monitor the health of their travelers.

According to the World Health Organization, the virus most likely began with an animal source. However, the illness became zoonotic, meaning it was able to be transmitted from animals to humans, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and thus was spread.

Little is known about the illness – also known as 2019-nCoV – but there is no vaccine to prevent or cure it for the time being. Coronaviruses are a group of viruses with a halo or crown-like (corona) appearance when seen under a microscope.

At least two coronaviruses are deadly – the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) viruses – but most are similar to any other upper respiratory ailment, with symptoms that include coughing, runny nose, sore throat and sometimes a fever.

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