Deadly virus infections quadruple
A US man who recently returned from a trip to central China has been diagnosed with the new virus that has sparked an outbreak and stringent monitoring around the world.
The man returned to the Seattle area in the middle of last week after travelling to the Wuhan area, where the outbreak began.
The man is in his 30s and is in good condition at a hospital in Everett, outside Seattle.
The US is the fifth country to report seeing the illness, following China, Thailand, Japan, and South Korea.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday announced a travel warning after a Brisbane man became the first Australian to display symptoms of a deadly SARS-like virus.
He was released from home isolation shortly after.
The virus is set to be declared a global health crisis after cases quadrupled in just four days.
The World Health Organisation said it would call an emergency meeting on Wednesday to decide whether the outbreak should be declared an international public health emergency.
Six people have died among 308 cases across China including more than 270 in and around the city of Wuhan.
Last month, doctors began seeing a new type of viral pneumonia - fever, cough, difficulty breathing - in people who spent time at a food market in Wuhan.
Officials have said it probably spread from animals to people, but this week said they've concluded it also can spread from person to person.
A top health expert in China has warned of the potential for "superspreaders" to worsen the impact of the virus.
Zhong Nanshan, one of China's top SARS experts, said there was evidence one patient alone had spread the virus to 14 medical workers.
"The key to controlling the spread of the disease now is about preventing the emergence of a superspreader (of the virus)," he said.
"At present, there is no special cure for this new coronavirus and [we are] conducting some tests with animals.
"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 superspreader of the virus."
He told the South China Morning Post he didn't think quarantine had been implemented thoroughly enough.
But University of Washington coronavirus researcher David Veesler said the public "should not be panicking right now" and that the response had been "very efficient".
"In a couple of weeks, China was able to identify the virus, isolate it, sequence it and share that information," he said.
"We don't have enough data to judge how severe the disease is."
International airports are screening passengers for the infection.
A video has been shared widely on Twitter showing people on a domestic flight out of the central Chinese city of Wuhan having their temperature taken one-by-one by people in protective suits.
WHAT IS THE DISEASE?
Scientists have identified it as a new kind of coronavirus. There are many known types of coronaviruses. Some cause the common cold. Others found in bats, camels and other animals have evolved into more severe illnesses such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) or MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome).
WHY IS IT CALLED A CORONAVIRUS?
Corona comes from Latin and refers to crowns or halos. Under a microscope, these viruses resemble crowns or halos.
WHEN WAS THE NEW VIRUS FOUND?
The outbreak started late last month in the city of Wuhan in central China, apparently at a food market.
HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE IT AND HOW WIDESPREAD IS IT?
About 300 cases have been identified. There are about 260 cases in Wuhan, according to Chinese officials. Cases in other Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, total around 30. They were reported with the onset of an annual travel rush for the Lunar New Year holiday. Many Chinese travel abroad for the holiday and a few cases have been confirmed outside the mainland - in South Korea, Japan, Thailand and Taiwan. That travel rush is expected to spread the disease more widely.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Common symptoms include a runny nose, headache, cough and fever. Shortness of breath, chills and body aches are associated with more dangerous kinds of coronavirus, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
HOW ARE CORONAVIRUSES SPREAD?
Many coronaviruses can spread through coughing or sneezing, or by touching an infected person. Initially, authorities in China said there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission in the present outbreak. But an expert panel has concluded there have been at least a few cases of people catching it from others, raising the possibility it could spread more widely.
COULD IT BE AS BAD AS SARS?
So far, the virus appears less dangerous and infectious than SARS, which also started in China and killed about 800 people. As of Tuesday, six deaths had been reported, all in Wuhan. Viruses can mutate into more dangerous and contagious forms, and it's too early to say what will happen with this one.
- with Associated Press