Coronavirus, named COVID-19 by scientists, has already infected nine people in the UK and an expert has warned that if the virus becomes more widespread it could be very hard to detect. Dr Michael Porter, molecular biologist and geneticist at the University of Central Lancashire, has said the most dangerous thing about the virus is that the symptoms are very similar to the common flu. As a result people could go undiagnosed and spread the virus further.

Dr Porter told Express.co.uk: “We still do not know enough about the virus, but due to the symptoms being similar to a bad case of the flu, there is some risk that people would go undiagnosed and spread the virus further.

“There is also evidence to suggest that people are spreading the virus for up to two weeks before they even begin to show any signs of the disease.

“This means that if the virus becomes more widespread in the UK, people may begin spreading the virus, unaware that they even have it.”

The biologist’s fears are shared by Dr Diana Gall who said Chinese scientists fear people infected with COVID-19 can spread the virus before they show symptoms – making coronavirus a huge threat.

She told Express.co.uk: “One key question that scientists are trying to answer conclusively is whether people who are infected with the coronavirus can infect other people before they show symptoms.

“Some Chinese scientists have suggested this is likely to be the case. The time between infection and symptoms is known as the ‘incubation period’ and this lasts up to 14 days.”

Dr Gall added it is much harder to contain the virus due to the threat of these “symptomless spreaders”.

Earlier this week Steve Walsh, 53, was identified as the UK’s “super-spreader”, who was believed to have infected at least 11 Britons in a fortnight before he showed any symptoms.

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He is believed to have infected five Britons in the UK, five in France and another in Majorca.

Mr Walsh, a scout leader from Brighton, picked up the virus at a conference in Singapore last month and came home to Hove via a skiing holiday in the Alps.

He was diagnosed with COVID-19 in Brighton on February 6 and was discharged on Wednesday, February 12 following two negative tests for coronavirus.

In a statement after leaving hospital, the father of two thanked those involved in his treatment and recovery.

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He said: “I’m happy to be home and feeling well.

“I want to give a big thank you to the NHS who have been great throughout and my thoughts are with everyone around the world who continues to be affected by the virus.”

Nine people have so far been diagnosed with coronavirus in the UK.

The number of recorded cases of the virus spiked this week, as Chinese health officials announced 14,840 cases on Wednesday – a new daily record.

The number of people killed also jumped by record numbers, as 242 people died, the fastest rise in the daily count since the outbreak.

The surge brought the total number of deaths in the Hubei province to 1,310.

The previous record rise in the toll was 103 on the February 10.

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