World • 21 January, 2020

New China virus: Number of cases jumps as virus spreads to new cities

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China has reported 139 new cases of a mysterious virus in two days, with the outbreak spreading from Wuhan to other major Chinese cities, BBC reports.

Beijing, the capital, reported two cases, while the southern tech hub of Shenzhen reported one case.

The total number of confirmed cases now exceeds 200, and three have died from the respiratory illness.

The sharp uptick in those infected comes as millions of Chinese prepare to travel for the Lunar New Year holidays.

Health officials have identified the infection, which first appeared in Wuhan in December, as being a strain of coronavirus. They say it led to an outbreak of viral pneumonia, but much about it remains unknown.

Although the outbreak is believed to have originated from a market, officials and scientists are yet to determine exactly how it has been spreading.

South Korea reported its first confirmed case of the virus on Monday, following two in Thailand and one in Japan.

The outbreak has revived memories of the Sars virus - also a coronavirus - that killed 774 people in the early 2000s across dozens of countries, mostly in Asia.

Analysis of the genetic code of the new virus shows it is more closely related to Sars than any other human coronavirus.

Four cases have been confirmed abroad - all of them involving people from Wuhan or who had visited the city.

In South Korea, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a 35-year-old Chinese woman was suffering from a fever and respiratory problems after travelling there from Wuhan. She was put into isolation and treated at a local hospital.

The World Health Organization said it was currently not recommending restrictions on travel or trade, but was providing guidance to countries preparing for any outbreak.

Singapore and Hong Kong have been screening air passengers from Wuhan, and US authorities announced similar measures starting on Friday at three major airports in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.

Passengers arriving from China were also scanned with a thermal imager in Nur-Sultan airport, Kazakhstan.

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