The sudden surge of coronavirus in Europe has raised questions about who is most at risk of being struck down by the deadly disease.

In Italy, the epicentre of the continent’s outbreak, 12 people have died since Friday, all of whom were elderly will pre-existing health conditions.

In England, two more people in tested positive for coronavirus today, bringing the total cases to 15.

People of all ages can catch the novel disease, but some are more at risk than others of becoming severely ill from the infection.

Who is most at risk of catching coronavirus? 

Older people and people with on-going medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease are more likely to suffer the fatal consequences of the virus, according to the NHS.

Health officials in China said a study of more than 44,000 causes found that 80% of infections were mild, with the sick and elderly most at risk.

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Like any virus, pregnant women who catch the disease may experience more severe symptoms. But the risk of catching it in the UK is still considered low by the NHS.

More than 81,000 people worldwide have been infected by COVID-19 and the number of deaths is approaching 3,000.

Although the rising death toll has caused alarm, the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC) put the overall fatality rate of the Covid-19 virus at 2.3%.

The research pointed to a high risk in medical staff, at least five of whom have died in China despite being young and healthy.

Disease control expert at the University of Exeter Medical School,  Dr Bharat Pankhania, said the risk of infection and even death is not zero for any demographic.

Professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, David Heymann agreed that young and healthy people could die of coronavirus, although the chances of this happening are slim.

He said: ‘This is a new disease in humans, so no-one has immunity– health workers, like everyone else, don’t have immunity’.

Coronavirus is spreading more quickly in Europe, the Middle East and other parts of the world than in China where it first emerged in December.

There have been cases in 48 countries across the globe with Italy, Iran and South Korea emerging as new hotspots for COVID-19.

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Health bosses say people of all ages should follow simple measures to protect yourself and stop it spreading, such as washing hands with soap and water and avoiding close contact with sick people.

Meanwhile, employees are being advised not to wear face masks in work to combat the threat of coronavirus.

Guidance published by the Government today says face masks are only recommended to be worn by ‘symptomatic individuals’ to reduce the risk of transmitting the killer infection to other people.

The Business Department and Public Health England recommended that the best way to reduce any risk of infection is good hygiene and avoiding direct or close contact (closer than 2 metres) with any potentially infected person.