Published: Thu, January 23, 2020
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

What is the Mysterious SARS-like Virus in China?

What is the Mysterious SARS-like Virus in China?

People arrive to Los Angeles International Airport after touchdown of an Air China flight from Beijing, which serves as a connector from Wuhan, China to Los Angeles, on the first day of health screenings for coronavirus of travelers from Wuhan on January 18, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.

Macao, a former Portuguese colony that is a semi-autonomous Chinese city, reported one case Wednesday.

The outbreak came at a particularly mobile time for Chinese people, with millions on the move to be with loved ones for the lunar new year, so it was inevitable that the virus would spread.

Passengers are also being screened at some airports in Thailand and the United States.

According to the South Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a 35-year-old Chinese woman was detected by temperature screening upon arriving Sunday at Seoul's Incheon International Airport from Wuhan.

No cases of human-to-human transmission have been confirmed so far, but authorities have previously said the possibility "cannot be excluded".

There have been complaints about the censorship of online posts, with comparisons to 2003, when Beijing drew criticism from the World Health Organisation for underreporting the number of SARS cases.

The National Health Commission said on Sunday departments should work together to carry out preventative measures.

The total number of confirmed cases now exceeds 200, and three have died from the respiratory illness.

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Meanwhile, health officials in South Korea on Monday confirmed the country's first case of the disease. "It has developed different features compared with the early stage, and the prevention and precautionary measures need to change accordingly".

The outbreak has caused alarm because the new virus is from the same family as the pathogen that causes SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed 349 people in mainland China and 299 in Hong Kong in 2002 and 2003.

Analysis of the genetic code of the new virus shows it is more closely related to Sars than any other human coronavirus.

"It looks like it doesn't transmit through the air very easily and probably transmits through close contact", he said.

Health authorities also said on Monday that two people in Beijing and one in the city of Shenzhen in the southern province of Guangdong had been confirmed with the virus.

Fifteen medical workers also tested positive for the virus, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission has said. World Health Organization also says an animal source appears most likely to be the primary source of the outbreak.

Scientists have traced the origin back to civets and horseshoe bats, animal strains that mutated into a new, more deadly virus.

Wuhan has 11 million inhabitants and serves as a major transport hub, including during the annual Lunar New Year holiday which begins later this week and sees hundreds of millions of Chinese people travel across the country to visit family.

Four cases have been confirmed overseas - all of them involving people from Wuhan or who had visited the city.

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