(CMR) The number of people infected with a new virus in China tripled over the weekend, with the outbreak spreading from Wuhan to other major cities as well as Thailand and South Korea. In addition, there has now been confirmation that the virus is being transmitted from person to person. Three persons are also confirmed dead from the virus.
The head of a Chinese government expert team, Zhong Nanshan, said two people in Guangdong province in southern China caught the disease from family members, according to state-controlled English language newspaper China Daily. Believed to have originated in a seafood market in Wuhan, central China, the illness potentially marks the seventh coronavirus known to science which can infect humans – a grouping which includes SARS and MERS. Medical workers are now among the infected.
The exact number of transmitted cases is largely in dispute as the Chinese government saying it is 217 persons while international bodies estimating a much higher amount. The London Imperial College's MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis estimated that as of 12 January there were likely 1,723 cases in Wuhan City with related symptoms.
Officials are likening this virus to the SARS outbreak – also a coronavirus – that killed 774 people in the early 2000s across dozens of countries, mostly in Asia. Analysis of the genetic code of the new virus shows it is more closely related to Sars than any other human coronavirus. The response of the Chinese government is being closely monitored as they were criticized for covering up the SARS crisis in late 2002 and early 2003.
Authorities in Wuhan, a central Chinese city of 11 million that has been at the heart of the outbreak, on Monday said 136 new cases had been confirmed over the weekend, with a third person dying of the virus. There had previously been only 62 confirmed cases in the city. Nine persons are said to be in critical condition.
Beijing also confirmed its first cases, with five people infected. Shanghai confirmed its first case on Monday – a 56-year-old woman who came from Wuhan.