The UAE reported the first case of the now rapidly spreading Wuhan coronavirus in the Middle East earlier today.

The family diagnosed with the virus are from Wuhan, China, but no details about the number of people diagnosed have yet been released.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention, however, released a statement informing UAE residents that the health of those infected is stable and remains under medical inspection.

The Wuhan coronavirus – although still new – has been under the microscope of medical professionals ever since it first appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan, reportedly on December 31.

Some of the effects of the virus include severe acute respiratory infection and is often accompanied with flu-like symptoms. It also may cause pneumonia, which is fatal.

At least 16 countries around the world have recorded cases so far, but China remains the most afflicted – with 5,974 cases and 106 deaths so far.

While there is no cure for the virus, HIV medication has proven a fruitful treatment in multiple cases.

Pharmacies in the UAE have been selling out face masks – which, according to doctors, provide up to 70% protection from the virus, but are not guarantees – and are calling out for urgent re-stocking.

Meanwhile, the Ministry claims it’s taking all the necessary precautions - in alignment with the World Health Organisation - to identify cases early on and to keep the infection contained.

Patients in hospitals are assessed for the virus if they exhibit certain symptoms or meet certain criteria (including if they’ve visited China in the last 14 days or came in close contact with someone who might be affected).

"The Ministry of Health and Prevention is working around the clock to immediately report any new cases,” the statement reads.

"The healthcare system is working very efficiently and the ministry is following the situation to ensure the safety and health of everyone in the UAE," it adds.

The Wuhan virus is one of seven known coronaviruses — four of which result in symptoms no more serious than the common cold. One of the viruses, however, Sars, has a fatality rate of 14 to 15 per cent; Mers, which kills about 35 per cent of people it infects; and the new virus can also be fatal.

Photo courtesy of Chris Whiteoak for The National.