World Health Organization (WHO) and Chinese authorities say a new strain of Coronavirus is behind the outbreak of pneumonia in the central city of Wuhan that has now spread to other parts of the country.
According to the reports of Reuters, some experts say the strain may not be as deadly as some other strains of coronavirus such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which killed nearly 800 people worldwide during a 2002/03 outbreak that also originated from China.
Coronaviruses can cause infections ranging from the common cold to SARS. Some types cause less serious disease, while others can be far more severe.
Little is known about the new virus, including its origin, but health authorities have confirmed human-to-human transmission.
Cases so far
As of Jan. 21, there were more than 200 confirmed cases of patients in China and elsewhere with the new strain of coronavirus. Their symptoms included fever, coughing and difficulty breathing.
The WHO said preliminary epidemiological investigations had found most cases were in people who either worked at or were frequent visitors to Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market.
“To date, investigations are still under way to assess the full extent of the outbreak,” it added.
What are the countermeasures?
According to international health experts, there is no vaccine for the new virus.
Chinese authorities have stepped up for disinfection and monitoring efforts for the preparation of the upcoming Chinese New year. Influx during the celebration is expected domestically and overseas.
Passengers from Wuhan will have to go strict screening according to airport authorities.
The WHO sent directives to hospitals around the world on infection prevention and control. It will also convene a health committee prioritizing an assessment whether the outbreak constitutes an international emergency.