Virus in Chinese outbreak is closest to one from bats, not snakes

Laverne Higgins
January 23, 2020

The Chinese city of Wuhan, epicentre of a new coronavirus outbreak, will build a dedicated hospital to treat patients, which it aims to complete in six days, state media outlet Beijing News reported.

Created by Johns Hopkins University, the map tracks the total number of confirmed and suspected cases, the total number of deaths, as well as the location of the detected cases.

China made a decision to lock down three cities that are home to more than 18 million people in an unprecedented effort to try to contain a deadly new viral illness that has sickened hundreds and spread to other cities and countries in the Lunar New Year travel rush.

Similar measures will take effect from Friday in the nearby cities of Huanggang and Ezhou.

The previously unknown virus strain is believed to have emerged late a year ago from illegally traded wildlife at an animal market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

The BBC understands that the patient travelled to Northern Ireland from the city of Wuhan.

Coronavirus has claimed its 18th victim this afternoon, with at least 633 other confirmed causes of the deadly virus.

In an interview with the People's Daily, the Wuhan Health Commission said that there are long queues at fever treatment centres, as well as a "tight situation" in terms of beds available. Since the infection, dubbed 2019-nCoV, was identified in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December, scientists have been working hard to gain an understanding of its origins and characteristics.

Hajdu said it is too early to determine what additional measures may be required.

Public transportation was shuttered and airports were closed. The Civil Aviation Administration of China said 288 flights had been canceled as of 11:30am.

Singapore confirms first case of Wuhan virus
But a senior US State Department official said Washington was "still concerned" about transparency in the Chinese government. The WHO's emergency committee will decide tomorrow whether or not to declare the infection a public health emergency.

The sharp rise in illnesses comes as millions of Chinese travel for the Lunar New Year, one of the world's largest annual migrations of people.

As the city slipped into isolation, residents thronged into hospitals for checks and scrambled for supplies, clearing out supermarket shelves and queuing for petrol. Houssin said that some members felt because there were so few cases outside of China and because Chinese authorities had implemented steps to try to contain the virus, the outbreak at this point did not amount to a global emergency.

If it does so, it will be the sixth worldwide public health emergency to be declared in the last decade.

Officials noted the outbreak is "still evolving", and they don't yet know the source of the virus or how it spreads.

"It's very risky for us to be outside at this moment, but we need to earn money", he said.

The emergence of a global coronavirus outbreak from China is reminiscent of the SARS outbreak of 2002 to 2003, which went on to kill almost 800 people.

Vietnam and Singapore also reported their first cases Thursday.

While the World Health Organization considers whether to declare a global emergency, all three of the major US indexes have come under pressure after heavy selling engulfed markets in Asia and Europe.

Concerned over the widening infection within China and other countries, the WHO Emergency Committee met in Geneva to decide if the outbreak is a "public health emergency of worldwide concern", that warranted a coordinated global response. The researchers published the findings in the Journal of Medical Virology, which says the virus most likely transferred to humans from the snake - a many-banded krait or Chinese cobra.

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