Wuhan steps up checks, warns of more virus cases

They are aged between 30 and 79, and three of them were in critical condition.

"That would be the worst case scenario, that's spread through the air, highly infectious, spreads to lots and lots of people and really deadly, and so that's what people are watching for and we've been lucky it hasn't been one of those so far". Travel is unusually heavy right now as people take trips to and from China to celebrate the Lunar New Year. However, so far there is little evidence of significant human-to-human transmission, it said.

At least two people have died from the virus and cases involving travelers from Wuhan have been reported in Thailand and Japan.

Health officials say the strain does not appear as lethal as some other strains of coronavirus such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which killed almost 800 people worldwide during a 2002-03 outbreak that also originated from China.

Singapore and Hong Kong have been screening air passengers from Wuhan, and United States authorities have announced similar measures at three major airports in San Francisco, Los Angeles and NY.

Viruses can change over time, adapting to new conditions and, in some cases, mutating in ways that change how they spread.

Authorities in Wuhan on Sunday announced that 17 new cases had been detected in the city, the South China Morning Post reported, taking the total number of cases to 62. A city spokesperson said several of the newly confirmed cases have no history of visiting Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, where 2019-nCoV is thought to have originated.

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They said that three of the people were "seriously ill" and would continue to look for suspected cases and carry out spot checks.

In China itself, there has been no official announcement of screening measures, but Wuhan deputy mayor Chen Xiexin told state broadcaster CCTV that infrared thermometers had been installed at airports, railway stations and coach stations across the city.

CDC officials say people shouldn't freak out and that more common illnesses such as the flu are much bigger threats to Americans than this new virus from China.

The novel virus is a new strain that has not previously been identified in humans. 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.

The outbreak of this virus was trending on Weibo, a microblogging platform in China.

Its National Health Commission warned, however, that close monitoring was needed given the source, transmission and mutation methods were unknown.

  • Sonia Alvarado