The mysterious new coronavirus has infected at least 1,700 people in Asia, research shows. The US issues a warning against travel in central China. Concerns have been raised about the upcoming Lunar New Year, a period with the largest mass movement in the world.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The number of people infected by China’s recent mysterious virus outbreak is far greater than official figures suggest, scientists say.
About 60 cases have been officially confirmed in mainland China, but the actual number is estimated to be closer to 1,700.
Health authorities have reported that the virus – known as 2019-nCoV – has infected around 60 people in Wuhan, central China, including one patient who has died.
Other cases have been reported in Japan and in Thailand involving patients who had visited central China.
The news comes a few days before the Lunar New Year, a peak period for Chinese tourism and foreign travel. Health officials across Asia are now on high alert and are taking preventive measures.
Genomic data for 2019-nCoV were published last Monday in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases. According to research, it is at least 70 per cent similar in genetic sequence to SARS-CoV.
The Wuhan virus’s symptoms as well as its mortality and transmission rates appear to be less severe than those of SARS (Severe acute respiratory syndrome and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome).
Fragments of the virus were picked up in testing of 15 patients who showed the symptoms of the mysterious form of pneumonia.
According to Xu Jianguo, director of the Beijing-based State Key Laboratory for Infectious Disease Prevention and Control, preliminary data suggest that the new virus appears to be similar to a known strain carried by bats, but different from the virus that causes SARS and MERS.
Although no new cases have been reported since 3 January, US authorities have issued a travel warning against visiting Wuhan, a city of 11 million, especially markets and other places with live or slaughtered animals.