China reports 17 new cases of mysterious SARS-like virus
Beijing, China - China reported 17 new cases of the mysterious SARS-like virus on Sunday, including three people in serious condition, heightening fears ahead of China’s Lunar New Year holiday when hundreds of millions of people move around the country.
The new coronavirus strain has caused alarm because of its connection to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
Of the 17 new cases in the central city of Wuhan - believed to be the epicentre of the outbreak - three were described as ‘severe’, of which two patients were too critical to be moved, authorities said.
Those infected range from 30 to 79 years old.
The virus has now infected 62 people in Wuhan, city authorities said, with eight in a severe condition, 19 recovered and discharged from hospital, and the rest in isolation receiving treatment.
Two people have died so far from the virus, including a 69 year old man on Wednesday after the disease caused pulmonary tuberculosis and damaged multiple organ functions.
Authorities said they had begun ‘optimised’ testing of pneumonia cases across the city to identify those infected, and would begin ‘detection work... towards suspected cases in the city’ as a next step, as well as carrying out ‘sampling tests’.
Scientists with the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College in London warned in a paper published Friday that the number of cases in the city was likely to be closer to 1,700, much higher than the number officially identified.
Authorities said on Sunday that some of the cases had ‘no history of contact’ with the seafood market believed to be the centre of the outbreak.
No human-to-human transmission has been confirmed so far, but Wuhan’s health commission has previously said the possibility ‘cannot be excluded’.
Three cases have also been reported overseas - two in Thailand and one in Japan.
Though China has not yet reported cases outside of Wuhan, discussion about the coronavirus spreading to other Chinese cities has swelled on social media.
On Sunday evening there were over 400mn views of the hashtag ‘Shanghai pneumonia’ on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media site, while ‘Shenzhen pneumonia’ garnered at least 340mn views.
Two people have died so far from the virus, including a 69 year old man last Wednesday
Medical staff members carry a patient into the Jinyintan hospital, where patients infected by a mysterious SARS-like virus are being treated, in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province on Saturday