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China: One dead from mysterious new virus

January 11, 2020

Health authorities have identified a new coronavirus behind the death of one man and dozens of others falling ill. Initial indications suggest there is no human-to-human transmission of the pneumonia-like virus.

Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Center for Disease Control

One person has died from a mysterious pneumonia outbreak in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, health authorities said on Saturday.

China's official Xinhua news agency said Thursday that preliminary lab results indicated a new coronavirus had been detected. In total, 41 people have been diagnosed with the pathogen and seven are in critical condition, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said.

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Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Some coronaviruses are spread between animals, while others are transmitted from person-to-person and others not.

According to Chinese health officials, the new virus causes severe illness in some patients and does not transmit easily between people. Illnesses from the virus were first detected in Wuhan on December 12 and no new cases have been reported since January 3.

Outbreak linked to seafood market

The 61-year-old man who died frequently visited a seafood market and had abdominal tumors and chronic liver disease, Chinese health officials said.

Treatment failed to improve his symptoms and he died on January 9 due to heart failure.

The Wuhan health authority said that infected patients were primarily vendors and purchasers at a seafood market in the city. 

The WHO said Thursday new coronaviruses are occasionally identified in different regions and that as surveillance improves more of the pathogens are likely to be detected. It said over the past week people with pneumonia who traveled to Wuhan have been identified at international airports, but that based on current information the health body did not recommend travel or trade restrictions. 

Since 2012, 858 deaths have been linked to MERS, the majority of cases in Saudi Arabia. A SARS epidemic in 2002-2003 killed 774 people in dozens of countries.

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