New coronavirus strain behind China pneumonia outbreak

20/01/2020
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16:14
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Reuters
New coronavirus strain behind China pneumonia outbreak
A woman wearing a mask walks past a quarantine notice about the outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan, China at an arrival hall of Haneda airport in Tokyo, Japan - Photo: Kim Kyung-Hoon/REUTERS

New coronavirus strain behind China pneumonia outbreak

20/01/2020
16:14
Reuters
Beijing
-A +A
The outbreak is linked to a seafood market in Wuhan, but some patients diagnosed with the new coronavirus deny exposure to this market

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Chinese authorities and the World Health Organization (WHO) say a new strain of coronavirus is behind the outbreak of pneumonia in the central city of Wuhan.

Some experts say the strain may not be as deadly as some other strains of coronavirus such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which killed nearly 800 people worldwide during a 2002/2003 outbreak that also originated from China. But little is known about the new virus, including its origin.

As of January 20, there were more than 200 confirmed cases of patients in China and elsewhere with the new strain of coronavirus. Their symptoms included fever, coughing, and difficulty breathing. Of the 198 patients in Wuhan itself, three have died.

New cases in China reported on January 20 include 20 patients outside of Wuhan, including five in Beijing and one in Shanghai, marking the first instances of the virus spreading to other parts of the country.

South Korea on January 20 reported a new case of the virus involving a Chinese traveler from Wuhan. Thailand has reported two confirmed cases of the virus, both of whom were Chinese tourists from Wuhan.

Japan also confirmed one case of a Japanese citizen who visited Wuhan.

China’s National Health Commission said on Saturday the source of the virus has not been found and its transmission path has not been fully mapped.

The outbreak is linked to a seafood market in Wuhan, but some patients diagnosed with the new coronavirus deny exposure to this market. The WHO says an animal source appears most likely to be the primary source of the outbreak and that some limited human-to-human transmission is occurring.

Wuhan municipal authorities have released information about a married couple that contracted the virus. The husband, who got sick first, worked at the market but the wife denied any exposure to the place. The authorities did not explicitly state whether this was a case of human-to-human transmission, however.

There is no vaccine for the new virus.

Chinese authorities have stepped up monitoring and disinfection efforts ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday in late January when many of China’s 1.4 billion people will travel domestically and overseas.

Airport authorities in the United States as well as many Asian countries, including Japan, Thailand, Singapore, and South Korea, stepped up screening of passengers from Wuhan.

The WHO sent directives to hospitals around the world on infection prevention and control.

On Tuesday, a traveler from China was diagnosed in Seattle with the Wuhan coronavirus, according to a U.S. CDC spokesman.

So far, the outbreak has spread to cities including Beijing and Shanghai. Cases have also been reported outside China, including in South Korea, Thailand, and Japan.

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The Chinese city of Wuhan is closing its transport networks and advising citizens not to leave the city, state media reported on Thursday.

Bus, subway, ferry, and long-distance passenger transportation networks will be suspended from 10 am local time on January 23, and the airport and train stations will be closed to outgoing passengers, state TV said.

The government is asking citizens not to leave the city unless there are special circumstances, state media said, citing the local government’s virus taskforce.

Huanggang on Thursday became the second Chinese city to go into lockdown over the coronavirus outbreak that has killed 17 people and infected more than 630 to date.

Health authorities in the city of around 7.5 million, which borders the central city of Wuhan where the outbreak is centered, said they would suspend public bus and railway operations from midnight (1600 GMT).

They also ordered indoor entertainment venues including movie theatres and internet cafes to shut, and asked citizens not to leave the city other than under special circumstances.

China’s capital city Beijing canceled major public events including two well-known Lunar New Year temple fairs, the state-run Beijing News said on Thursday afternoon, as authorities try to curb the spread of a deadly coronavirus outbreak.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Thursday that the new coronavirus that has emerged in China and spread to several other countries does not yet constitute an international emergency but it was tracking its evolution “every minute”.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the announcement after its Emergency Committee of 16 independent experts reviewed the latest evidence and made its recommendations, which he accepted.

On January 30, the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak in Wuhan, China to be a “public health emergency of international concern.”

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