China confirms new SARS-like virus can be spread through human contact


A new, SARS-like virus in China has claimed at least six lives and infected more than 300 people as of Tuesday, January 21, 2020. It was also confirmed that the infection can spread between humans and that the virus has been reported beyond the country.

Zhong Nanshan, head of the team set up by China's National Health Commission to investigate the virus, confirmed that at least two cases had been spread from human to human, adding that medical staff had also been infected.

On Tuesday, officials in central China's Wuhan– where the coronavirus was first detected– announced a series of new preventive measures, including the cancelation of upcoming Lunar New Year celebrations which is expected to be attended by thousands of people.

Tour agencies have also been prohibited from taking groups out of Wuhan. Moreover, the number of thermal monitors and screening areas in public will be increased.

Traffic authorities will conduct spot checks as well on private vehicles arriving and leaving the city, to search for live animals, after the virus was associated with seafood and live animal market.

These new measures came after President Xi Jinping ordered to do "resolute efforts to curb the spread" of the virus on Monday, January 20.

However, there are fears that the efforts were too late as hundreds of millions of Chinese are expected to begin traveling across the country and overseas for the annual Lunar New Year.

According to the state media, although infections were first detected in mid-December, screening areas were only installed on January 14.

On Tuesday, China's National Health Commission said it had received 291 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The municipal health commissions of Zheijiang, Tianjin, and Shanghai also reported more cases, increasing the number of cases to 302.

There are 270 cases in Wuhan, 14 in Guangdong, six in Shanghai, five both in Beijing and Zhejiang, and two in Tianjin.

Also on Tuesday evening, reports said the death toll has risen to six as the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission confirmed that an elderly man and a middle-aged woman succumbed to the virus on January 20. The youngest to be infected is a 15-year old.

The outbreak has also spread beyond China, affecting neighboring Asian countries including Thailand, Japan, and South Korea.

"So far four cases have been reported outside China, two in Thailand, one in Japan and one in the Republic of Korea (South Korea)," said World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic.

In the Philippines, a five-year-old boy from Wuhan was tested positive for the coronavirus. According to the country's Department of Health, the child arrived in Cebu city with his mother on January 12.

WHO said the agency will assemble an emergency committee of experts and they are expected to meet on Wednesday, January 22.

Featured image credit: deanspic/flickr

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