About 6,000 cases of a new viral respiratory illness have been confirmed since an outbreak began in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Scientists have identified the illness as a new kind of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some of which cause the common cold. Others have evolved into more severe illnesses, such as SARS and MERS, although so far the new virus does not appear to be as deadly or contagious.
Symptoms of the new virus include fever, cough and shortness of breath.
— The virus has killed more than 130 people, and the virus has now infected more people in China than were sickened there during the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak.
— World health officials expressed worry that the virus is starting to spread between people outside of China. Meanwhile, scientists said there is evidence that the virus has spread person-to-person among close contacts since mid-December. They estimate that each infection led to 2.2 others on average, suggesting considerable effort may be needed to control its spread.
— Several countries moved to bring residents home from China. About 200 Americans flown out of Wuhan on a plane chartered by the U.S. government were undergoing three days of monitoring at a Southern California military base. In Tokyo, the first group of Japanese evacuees arrived aboard a government-chartered flight. The European Union was working to bring back 600 citizens from 14 countries.
— Sporting events in China were postponed and Olympic qualifying tournaments were moved elsewhere. The country’s women’s soccer team was quarantined in Australia ahead of an Olympic qualifying tournament. None of the players has shown symptoms.
— Airlines around the world suspended or significantly cut back service to China.
— A family of four Chinese tourists in the United Arab Emirates became the Mideast’s first cases of the virus.
— The outbreak kept many indoors and at home in China’s capital during what is usually one of the busiest periods for tourism. Beijing cultural landmarks such as the Great Wall and Forbidden City closed to visitors, while shopping malls, restaurants and subway stations were nearly empty.
— Villages on the outskirts of Beijing closed themselves off to outsiders, with residents blocking roads with piles of earth and standing guard to prevent outsiders and their vehicles from entering.
Source: Associated Press