Pandemic fears grow as China virus toll rises to nine

Pandemic fears grow as China virus toll rises to nine
  • Clock-gray 16:41
  • calendar-gray 22 January 2020

Authorities in China and beyond stepped up efforts to control an outbreak of a new flu-like coronavirus on Wednesday as the death toll rose to nine with 440 confirmed cases, while suspicion grew that the virus crossed to humans from animals, APA reports citing Reuters.

China discouraged public gatherings in Hubei province, where the virus emerged last month, and tightened containment measures in hospitals, while the World Health Organization (WHO) was due to hold an emergency meeting to determine whether the outbreak constituted a global health emergency.

The virus has spread from the central Chinese city of Wuhan, in Hubei, to Beijing, Shanghai, Macau, Hong Kong, and beyond to the United States, Thailand, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.

The Chinese government has provided updates on the number of cases in a bid to head off panic, as hundreds of millions of people prepare to travel at home and abroad for Lunar New Year celebrations starting this week.

“The rise in the mobility of the public has objectively increased the risk of the epidemic spreading and the difficulty of prevention and control,” National Health Commission vice-minister Li Bin told reporters.

There was evidence that the virus was being spread through “respiratory transmission”, Li said. And, the director-general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said virus was adapting and mutating, underscoring the challenges for health authorities.

Some 2,197 people who came into contact with infected people were being kept in isolation, while 765 have been released from observation.

“There has been a big change in the number of cases, which is related to our deepening understanding of the disease, improving diagnostic methods and optimizing the distribution of diagnostic kits,” Li said.

Symptoms of the virus, which can cause pneumonia, include fever, coughing and difficulty breathing.

There is no vaccine for the virus, which can be passed from person to person. Fifteen medical personnel are among those infected in China.

Fears of a pandemic similar to an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that started in China and killed nearly 800 people in 2002-2003 have roiled global markets, with aviation and luxury goods stocks hit particularly hard and the Chinese yuan tumbling.

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