- A Chinese woman from Wuhan was diagnosed with the virus, bringing the number of cases outside China to four.
- The outbreak of the disease is caused by a new type of coronavirus, similar to that of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
- The official figures being relayed by China have been viewed with a lot of suspicion abroad.
The outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus is spreading to more Chinese cities, with 139 new cases confirmed this weekend. The virus, which causes pneumonia, has infected more than 200, health officials said on Monday. Authorities in Wuhan, China’s central metropolis where the disease was first identified in December, confirmed the new cases, including a third death.
One case was revealed in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. Two other infected were reported in Beijing. The three patients had passed through Wuhan, according to health officials. For the first time, a case was reported in South Korea. A Chinese woman from Wuhan was diagnosed with the virus, bringing the number of cases outside China to four. Two cases of the disease have been reported in Thailand with one in Japan. These three cases also involve people who have been to Wuhan. The United States and many Asian countries are already examining travelers from Wuhan for symptoms of the disease.
Initially reported in December, the outbreak of the disease is caused by a new type of coronavirus, similar to that of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Almost 800 people were killed worldwide during an epidemic that occurred between 2002 and 2003. This outbreak also started in China. The main symptoms of the disease are fever and fatigue, accompanied by a dry cough and, in many cases, breathing difficulties.
Health experts have since identified the disease as a strain of coronavirus. They say it has led to an outbreak of viral pneumonia, but much about it is still a mystery. Coronaviruses are categorized as a broad family of viruses, but so far, only six (the new one is an addition, making it seven) are known to infect human beings.
The official figures being relayed by China have been viewed with a lot of suspicion abroad. There are fears that the virus has infected hundreds of people more than the official figure, according to scientists at the research center at Imperial College London, which advises institutions such as the World Health Organization (WHO). Experts pointed out in a study that 1,723 infected people is a much more likely figure than the figures so far announced. To reach this conclusion, the researchers used the number of cases detected so far outside China, to deduce the probable number of people infected in Wuhan, according to data from international flights leaving that city.
The government is still concerned about the spread of the disease during the Chinese New Year holiday, which begins next Friday, and runs until February 18. Millions of Chinese are due to travel to their home cities or abroad. The government estimates that 440 million will use rail transport, and 79 million will go on commercial planes, hence raising the probability of the further spread of the disease.