China reports new virus cases, raising concern globally before key
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[January 18, 2020]
By Se Young Lee and Hallie Gu
BEIJING (Reuters) - China reported four
more cases of pneumonia believed to be caused by a new coronavirus
strain, causing rising concern globally that a disease health officials
do not yet fully understand could spread during a key holiday period.
The new virus, which was discovered in the central Chinese city of
Wuhan, belongs in the same large family of coronaviruses that includes
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 800 people
globally during a 2002/03 outbreak that also started in China.
Though experts say the new virus does not appear to be as lethal as SARS,
there is little known about its origins and how easily it can spread.
Thailand and Japan have confirmed new cases of the virus earlier this
week, stoking worries globally as many of the 1.4 billion Chinese people
will travel abroad during the Lunar New Year holidays that begin next
Authorities around the world including in the United States, Thailand
and South Korea have stepped up monitoring of travelers from Wuhan as
part of their efforts to prevent the disease from spreading.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has also warned that a wider
outbreak is possible, though it has advised against any travel
restrictions for China.
The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission (WMHC) said on Saturday the four
new individuals diagnosed with the new virus are in stable condition,
adding it has confirmed 45 cases in the city as of Thursday. A day
earlier, the commission confirmed the death of a second patient.
Nearly 50 people are now known to have been infected globally, but all
of them either live in Wuhan or have traveled to the city.
A report published by the London Imperial College's MRC Center for
Global Infectious Disease Analysis said there are likely "substantially
more cases" of the new coronavirus than currently announced by Wuhan
authorities: its base scenario estimate is that there would be 1,723
cases showing onset of related symptoms by Jan. 12.
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International travelers arrive at John F. Kennedy international
airport in New York City, U.S., February 4, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan
The WMHC referred Reuters queries about the report to the National
Health Commission (NHC) and the Hubei provincial government, but the
NHC and the Hubei government did not immediately respond to Reuters
requests for comment. Wuhan is the capital of Hubei province.
U.S. authorities have said they would start screening at three
airports to detect travelers arriving via direct or connecting
flights from Wuhan who may have symptoms of the new virus.
In Asia, authorities in Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand
have stepped up monitoring of passengers from Wuhan at airports.
Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines say they have strengthened
screening at all points of entry in response to the outbreak, as
But Alexandra Phelan, global health legal expert at Georgetown
University's Center for Global Health Science and Security, said
such screening may be insufficient in preventing the virus from
spreading as its symptoms, which include fever, cough and difficulty
in breathing, are "quite general".
"There are likely to be many individuals with matching symptoms due
to an illness that is not 2019-nCoV," Phelan said, referring to the
(Reporting by Se Young Lee and Hallie Gu; Additional reporting by
John Geddie in Singapore, Joseph Sipalan in Kuala Lumpur, Antoni
Slodkowski in Tokyo, Heekyong Yang in Seoul, Lidia Kelly in
Melbourne, Neil Jerome Morales in Manila, Tabieta Diela in Jakarta;
Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Muralikumar Anantharaman)
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