FACTBOX-New coronavirus outbreak spreads in China

by Reuters
Wednesday, 22 January 2020 05:34 GMT

(Updates with latest information on the outbreak)

Jan 22 (Reuters) - At least nine people have died from a new coronavirus in China following an outbreak in the central city of Wuhan, and some 450 cases have been reported globally, most of them in China where the infection has spread faster in recent days.

Global health authorities and financial markets fear the transmission rate will accelerate further as hundreds of millions of Chinese will travel domestically and overseas during the upcoming week-long Lunar New Year holiday.

Little is known about the coronavirus strain, though human-to-human transmission has been confirmed. Some experts say it may not be as deadly as some other coronavirus such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 800 people worldwide during a 2002/03 outbreak that also originated from China.

KNOWN CASES

China's National Health Commission has confirmed nine deaths and 440 cases by the end of Tuesday. The commission did not provide a detailed breakdown but its sum may include the one confirmed case in Taiwan, the self-ruled island that China claims as its own territory.

Beyond China, the United States reported one case, Thailand has reported four cases and South Korea one. Japan has also confirmed one case. All of those cases involved people who had either come from or been in Wuhan recently.

AUTHORITIES INVESTIGATING ORIGIN

Chinese health authorities are still trying to determine the origin of the virus, which they say came from a market in Wuhan where wildlife was traded illegally. The World Health Orgainization (WHO) also says an animal source appears most likely to be the primary source of the outbreak.

China's National health Commission Vice Minister Li Bin told reporters during a briefing on Jan. 22 there is evidence of respiratory transmission of the virus from patient to patient.

Chinese authorities have also that 15 medical staff in the country have been infected, which they say indicates loopholes in treatment methods.

COUNTER-MEASURES

There is no vaccine for the new virus.

Chinese authorities have stepped up monitoring and disinfection efforts ahead of the Lunar New Year break that formally starts on Jan. 24, when many of China's 1.4 billion people will travel domestically and overseas.

They have also advised people to not travel to Wuhan and also asked Wuhan residents to remain in the city.

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.

Singapore announced on Jan. 21 that it will quarantine individuals with pneumonia and travel history to Wuhan within 14 days before the onset of symptoms.

Taiwan's government on Jan. 22 advised people to not visit Wuhan unless they absolutely must and suspended tourist groups from the city from visiting the island.

The WHO sent directives to hospitals around the world on infection prevention and control. It has also convened an emergency committee of experts on Jan. 22 to assess whether the outbreak constitutes an international emergency. (Writing by Se Young Lee; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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