Patients infected by China virus 'likely over a thousand'

The city's health commission confirmed a second death this week, a 69-year-old man who fell ill on December 31 and died Wednesday.

The virus - a new strain of coronavirus that humans can contract - has caused alarm because of its connection to Sars (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed almost 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-03.

Authorities are keen to avoid a repeat of the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak in 2002 and 2003, which also originated in China.

Passengers arriving at Los Angeles, San Francisco and JFK airport in New York City will have their temperatures taken and be asked about symptoms.

Indians traveling to and from China have been warned of a risky new virus on the move in the country, with officials boosting security and health screenings at Indian airports in an effort to catch new cases of the illness.

Three confirmed cases meanwhile have now been reported outside China - two in Thailand and one in Japan - even as health authorities around the world sought to assure the public that the overall risk of infection remained low.

As on January 11, 41 Novel Coronavirus (nCoV) confirmed infection case have been reported from China, of which one has died.

Two men aged in their 60s have died in China after being struck by the virus, which is understood to have broken out in Wuhan.

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It is still not clear how well the virus can be transmitted, but there are indications of some limited spread from person-to-person, CDC officials said.

A summary of the report on the centre's website says its baseline scenario estimates that there would be 1723 cases showing onset of related symptoms by 12 January. Global health authorities are on particular alert because of the millions of people expected to travel around the upcoming Lunar New Year holidays.

But the new report suggests they could be wrong.

But Alexandra Phelan, global health legal expert at Georgetown University's Center for Global Health Science and Security, said such screening may be insufficient in preventing the virus from spreading as its symptoms, which include fever, cough and difficulty in breathing, are "quite general".

Now much remains to be understood about the new coronavirus, which was first identified in China earlier this month, the World Health Organization said, adding that definitive conclusions about its transmission modes, clinical features, source of infection, or spreading extent have yet to be given.

Two more people with pneumonia who had travelled to Wuhan, China were warded here and isolated as a precautionary measure, bringing the tally of such cases to five. Given that three Chinese have been discovered overseas with the virus - two Chinese women visiting Thailand and a Chinese man working in Japan - and Wuhan's role as a major travel hub, the scientists believe the spread domestically could also be wider.

In a national advisory to health professionals last week, the Ministry of Health said it was also monitoring the situation. As long as it can only travel from animal to human there are relatively straightforward precautions that can be taken to keep people healthy.

  • Ismael Montgomery