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China reports 17 new cases of mystery virus

January 19, 2020

From the US to Thailand, countries have taken safety measures to contain the SARS-like virus. Chinese authorities have said they cannot rule out human-to-human transmission as the outbreak widens.

People at the Tokyo International Airport wear masks after arriving from Wuhan
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/AP/E. Hoshiko

Chinese authorities on Sunday announced 17 new cases of a deadly virus that has infected more than 60 people in the central city of Wuhan.

At least three of those patients are in critical condition, said the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission. Two people have died due to infection.

Public health officials and the World Health Organization have identified the virus as a new coronavirus strain.

Coronaviruses can be spread via coughing, sneezing or touching someone who is infected. They are a large family of viruses with many types that can cause infections ranging from the common cold to SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome.

Read more: Unknown lung disease in China

Containing the outbreak

Authorities in mainland China, Hong Kong and elsewhere in the region have increased temperature checks at airports in a bid to stop the virus from spreading.

So far, two cases have been reported in Thailand and one in Japan. The United States has implemented additional checks for passengers arriving from Wuhan at airports in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Chinese authorities have suggested that no human-to-human transmission has been confirmed. However, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission admitted that it "cannot be excluded."

History of deadly outbreaks

China is trying to prevent a repeat of the SARS outbreak in 2002 and 2003 that infected more than 8,000 people and killed 775.

A decade later, China was hit by another outbreak, only that time it was the highly contagious Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

Chinese authorities have set up additional checks due to heightened fears that the outbreak will spread as the country prepares to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year later this month.

ls/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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