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Virus fears hit airline shares

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Virus fears hit airline shares
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Shares in Europe’s leading airlines have fallen amid fears that the fatal coronavirus can be transmitted among people.

New screening measures are set to be introduced but the prospect of disruption to air travel and passengers is already affecting the industry.

British Airways and its rival Air France-KLM both lost nearly five percent on Monday, the sharpest drop since April when they retreated following concerns over a bird-flu virus in China.

Germany’s Lufthansa, Europe’s second-biggest airline, slid as much as 3.5 percent in Frankfurt.

The SARS outbreaks a decade ago severely curtailed air travel, pushing carriers to significant losses.

Novel Coronavirus

What is the new virus?
The Novel Coronavirus (NCoV) that has been identified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) is a strain of coronavirus that has so far infected 34 people, 18 of whom have died since September 2012. Symptoms include fever, coughing, breathing difficulties, pneumonia and, in severe cases, kidney failure. NCoV has been detected in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Germany, the United Kingdom and France.

What is a coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause respiratory infections in humans and animals. They range from the common cold to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). The new virus, NCoV, is not SARS.

What is SARS?
An outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) was detected in 2003, having begun in China and other parts of south-east Asia before spreading to Europe and the Americas. Of around 8,000 known infections, 774 people died worldwide according to the WHO. There have been no known cases since 2004.

What are the risks of NCoV?
Much remains to be learnt about NCoV, including how it spreads and how to treat it. It is not thought to be very contagious but the WHO believes it may be passed from human to human via droplets in the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Although the virus, at this stage, seems unlikely to become a pandemic, health officials are concerned about its potential to evolve and spread. There is no known vaccine; people are advised to avoid close contact with others who show signs of common cold symptoms such as coughing and sneezing, and to maintain good hand hygiene with regular hand-washing.