- China’s mysterious and deadly coronavirus can spread from person to person, Chinese medical authorities confirmed on Monday.
- Officials are scrambling to contain 2019-nCoV, a SARS-like infection that originated in a seafood and meat market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
- The virus, which has pneumonia-like symptoms including fever and difficulty breathing, has already spread from Wuhan to Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen, as well as to South Korea, Thailand, and Japan.
- The spread could accelerate as hundreds of millions of people travel home for Lunar New Year this week through crowded train stations and airports.
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China’s mysterious and deadly coronavirus can spread from person to person, Chinese medical authorities announced on Monday.
Chinese and international authorities are scrambling to slow the spread of 2019-nCoV, a SARS-like illness known as the Wuhan virus because the infection originated in a seafood and meat market in the central Chinese city.
Authorities initially thought the illness was transmitted from animals to humans. Confirmation that it can move directly between people makes the threat even more severe and increases the risk to other countries.
“Now we can say it is certain that it is a human-to-human transmission phenomenon,” said Zhong Nanshan, the scientist the Chinese government has appointed to lead the effort to battle the disease.
As of Monday, three people in Wuhan had died from the illness,local health authorities said.
The total number of infections in the country tripled over the weekend, to at least 218. Some scientific estimates have suggested that the true scale of the disease may be an order of magnitude larger than the official confirmed cases.
The virus, which has pneumonia-like symptoms including fever and difficulty breathing, has already spread to Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen, as well as to South Korea, Thailand, and Japan.
The World Health Organisation said it would convene an emergency meeting on Wednesday to determine what kind of international response the outbreak requires.
Neil Ferguson, a public-health expert at Imperial College London, told The New York Times that the danger posed by the virus depended on how “efficiently” it spreads from person to person. If the transmission is very effective, it will be able to spread far very quickly. If it is relatively hard for the virus to spread, it will be easier to contain.
It’s unclear how many people have been infected through other humans.
There are fears that the pace of the infection will intensify as hundreds of millions of people travel this week within China and internationally for Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year. More people travel home annually for the New Year holiday than during any other time of year.
Health authorities in Asia are ramping up measures to spot and contain people who have the virus. A video posted on social media this week showed medics taking passengers’ temperatures before a plane could fly out of Wuhan, and various airports have increased health screenings of people travelling from China.
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said it would screen incoming passengers from China at airports in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, as are health authorities in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Tokyo.
Alex Ma contributed reporting.
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