Officials in China have confirmed that an outbreak of a new pneumonia-like illness that originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan has been spreading from person to person and has infected health workers.
The previously unknown coronavirus has infected people in cities including Beijing and Shanghai and spread to other parts of Asia and the United States.
The spike in cases before Lunar New Year has raised fears that the virus could spread further as hundreds of millions of people travel around the country.
What is the death toll?
How many cases have been confirmed?
583 (571 are in mainland China).
What is a coronavirus?
Medical experts in China identified the cause of the mysterious pneumonia-like illness as a new strain of coronavirus " 2019-nCoV " in early January.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses causing illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as the Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Coronaviruses commonly circulate in animals, but some can evolve to infect humans and spread between people. Only seven, including the new virus, are known to infect people, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
There are no specific treatments such as vaccines for coronaviruses but many symptoms caused by the viruses can be treated.
How many people are affected?
Mainland China had 571 confirmed cases and 17 fatalities as of January 23 afternoon, according to China's National Health Commission. Most of the cases and all of the deaths were in Hubei province where Wuhan is located, with smaller numbers in other provinces and municipalities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong.
There had been 15 cases among medical professionals in Wuhan, with one in a critical condition. The first case was reported to the WHO on December 31, and is thought to have originated at a wholesale market in Wuhan selling seafood and other animal produce.
Hong Kong reported two infections with positive results in initial tests on Wednesday, while Macau confirmed its second case on Thursday.
The United States on Tuesday confirmed its first case, a man who had returned from Wuhan on January 15. Taiwan also confirmed its first case on Tuesday night.
Other cases have been reported in Thailand, Japan and South Korea.
Thailand authorities quarantined a fourth patient with the new coronavirus on Wednesday. Three of the cases are Chinese citizens and one is a Thai national.
South Korea confirmed on Monday that a woman who had arrived from Wuhan had the virus. A Chinese man working in Japan had previously been confirmed as infected.
Australia and the Philippines both reported their first suspected cases on Tuesday. A five-year-old in the Philippine province of Cebu has been tested, while Australia has placed a man in isolation at his home in the city of Brisbane.
No deaths have been reported overseas.
*Is Wuhan on lockdown? *
The city of Wuhan stopped all public transportation in or out of the city starting from 10am on January 23. The lockdown was announced on Wednesday night and local residents rushed to try and leave the city.
Furthermore, 18 highways entering or exiting Wuhan were closed at noon on Thursday, according to state broadcaster CCTV. Previously, medical personal had been stationed at toll gates and checkpoints.
All cinemas in Wuhan have been temporarily closed, according to 21st Century Business Herald.
What has the WHO said so far?
The WHO has delayed its decision on whether or not to designate the coronavirus as an international emergency. A 21-member emergency committee will meet on Thursday to decide if it will declare the outbreak "a public health emergency of international concern."
Doing so could potentially trigger a coordinated international effort to tackle the disease.
"There was an excellent discussion during the committee today, but it was also clear that to proceed, we need more information," said WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a press statement.
It had not recommended restrictions on travel to or trade with China as of Tuesday evening.
On Monday, the WHO warned that human-to-human transmission might have been behind the infection cases in China.
"An animal source seems the most likely primary source of this novel coronavirus outbreak, with some limited human-to-human transmission occurring between close contacts," it said.
Why is there such a concern?
The virus has caused alarm because of its resemblance to Sars, which infected more than 8,000 people globally and killed over 600 in mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-03.
Zhong Nanshan, a leading expert on communicable diseases in China and on the Sars virus, confirmed human-to-human transmission in at least one case in Wuhan and two cases of infection in Guangdong province.
He also said the infection of medical personnel was alarming and warned against the emergence of super-spreaders.
"We expect the number of infected cases will increase over the Lunar New Year travel period and we need to prevent the emergence of a super-spreader of the virus," state broadcaster CCTV reported Zhong as saying on Monday night.
So-called super-spreaders are people at the most virulent stage of infection who are more likely to spread the disease to others.
However, researchers at Britain's Imperial College London said it was likely there were substantially more infections than Chinese authorities had disclosed.
According to their calculations, published on the website of the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis, as of January 12, there were at least 1,723 people likely to have been infected with the new coronavirus.
The researchers updated their findings on Wednesday, estimating that a total of 4,000 people in Wuhan were likely to have had an onset of symptoms as of Saturday.
What preventive measures can be taken?
Zhong said that people who had no urgent business in Wuhan should avoid visiting the city.
That message was reinforced by professor Yuen Kwok-yung, from the University of Hong Kong's department of microbiology.
"The recommendations from Dr Zhong and the other experts are very clear. Wuhan is the infectious zone, so people should not go there unless it's necessary," Yuen told Hong Kong broadcaster RTHK on Tuesday.
To prevent the spread of the virus, the WHO recommends washing hands regularly, covering the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and thoroughly cooking meat and eggs.
It also suggests avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness.
Maria Van Kerkhove, of the WHO's emerging disease and zoonoses unit, recommends avoiding unnecessary unprotected contact with live animals, and thorough hand washing after contact with an animal.
Gabriel Leung, co-director of the University of Hong Kong's WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Control, said masks should be part of preventive efforts.
"If you are ill, put on a mask. If you are going to a crowded place, put on a mask even if you are not ill," Leung said.
"If you have any symptoms, especially if you have traveled to Wuhan, please seek medical attention and be honest and open with your doctors."
Copyright (c) 2020. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.查看原始文章