China Reports First Death From Mysterious Pneumonia Outbreak

After the pathogen of "unknown cause of viral pneumonia" was initially determined to be a new type of coronavirus, the national, provincial and municipal expert groups immediately revised and improved plans for diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of unexplained viral pneumonia.

More than two-thirds of the suspected cases in Hong Kong or 46 patients have been discharged and the remainder are in stable condition. None of the 739 people that had close contact with patients, including medical personnel, was infected.

While the World Health Organization first suggested earlier this week that a SARS-like coronavirus could be driving a spate of severe pneumonia cases - Chinese scientists have now confirmed that suspicion. They reminded some experts of the emergence of SARS in 2003, when the virus spread from China to Hong Kong and then on to Vietnam, Singapore, Taiwan, and Toronto, Canada, infecting more than 8,000 people and killing almost 800.

"Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that range from the common cold to SARS".

Hong Kong's Department of Health also said on Saturday that it strengthened checks and cleaning measures at all border check points, including the port, airport and the city's high-speed rail station which receives passengers from Wuhan city.

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The Wuhan health commission said the man who died had purchased goods from a seafood market in the city identified by authorities as the centre of the outbreak. The researchers described the infectious agent as a "coronavirus", identified in a hospitalised person with pneumonia in Wuhan.

Beijing reported on Thursday that it suspected the unidentified illness as being caused by a new strain of coronavirus. The market was closed January 1.

City residents anxious about the outbreak have rushed to buy face masks from local pharmacies, with many selling out earlier this week, while officials in Taiwan have urged the island's health and welfare ministry to strengthen quarantine controls.

The health authorities reiterated Saturday they had not seen any definite evidence of people passing on the virus to other people - meaning that every human case would have come from being exposed to the virus from an animal.

  • Ismael Montgomery