BEIJING (Reuters) – 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.
Passengers wearing masks wait to board trains at the Beijing West Railway Station, in Beijing, China January 20, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer
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 2002/03 outbreak that also originated from China.
But little is known about the new virus, including its origin.
As of Jan. 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 Jan. 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 Jan. 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.
LITTLE KNOWN ABOUT VIRUS ITSELF
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 has 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.
Reporting by Se Young Lee; Editing by Angus MacSwan