A fourth person has died in an outbreak of the new coronavirus in China which has infected almost 300 people.
Australia and the Philippines have also reported suspected cases of the SARS-like virus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
A total of 291 people are confirmed to have caught the illness, with another 54 cases suspected and more than 900 people under observation.
The World Health Organization has announced it will hold an emergency meeting later this week to discuss the outbreak, which has already spread to three countries.
Chinese officials yesterday confirmed the never-before-seen coronavirus has spread between humans, with two patients catching it from family members.
The country’s National Health Commission team also said 14 healthcare workers had caught the respiratory virus while treating patients after the number of cases tripled over the weekend.
Stock markets in China and Hong Kong dipped today amid fears tourists will refrain from travelling, despite Beijing urging people not to panic.
The unnamed novel virus has infected an estimated 1,700 in Wuhan, China. Authorities said the virus had spread to other cities in China. The total confirmed cases is nearing 300 and four have died. Four confirmed cases are outside China in Thailand, Japan, and South Korea. (Pictured: The most recently available breakdown of where cases have been diagnosed)
An official uses an infrared thermometer on a traveler at a health screening checkpoint at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport. Wuhan is at the centre of the outbreak
Staff in biohazard suits hold a metal stretcher by the in-patient department of Wuhan Medical Treatment Centre, where patients are being treated for the new coronavirus
Quarantine workers spray disinfect at Incheon International Airport in South Korea. South Korea confirmed its first case on January 20 after a 35-year-old woman arriving at Seoul’s Incheon airport tested positive for the virus
Two patients in southern China have caught the virus from infected family members, according to local media. Pictured, Chinese residents wear masks in Wuhan
China reported on January 20 the mysterious virus had spread across the country from Wuhan. Pictured, medical staff at Jinyintan hospital, Wuhan
The outbreak is believed to have started late last month among people connected to a seafood market in Wuhan, where all four fatalities have happened.
State media did not provide any details on the latest victim, nor was it clear if the latest death was a new case or one already diagnosed.
Australian officials today announced a traveller had been placed in quarantine with symptoms of the virus after returning home from a trip to China.
The man is being kept at his home in Brisbane as he awaits test results for the virus. Earlier tests were inconclusive, Queensland health chiefs said.
The suspected case prompted Prime Minister Scott Morrison to warn Australians travelling to China to ‘exercise a high degree of caution’ in China’s Wuhan area.
The authorities in Wuhan are taking their own precautions and are using infrared thermometers to scan people from a distance to try and pick out possible cases.
Scanners have been put in place at airports, railway stations and coach stops around the city, which is home to some 11million people.
The Philippines also announced this morning it was probing its potential first case of the coronavirus.
A five-year-old child arrived in the Philippines on January 12 from Wuhan and has since been hospitalised with flu symptoms.
While the child tested positive for a virus, authorities in Manila say they are not sure if it is the same one that has killed four people in China.
STOCK MARKETS HIT BY VIRUS FEARS
Stock markets in China and Hong Kong saw share prices dip in tourism and retail sectors today over fears the outbreak will scare off tourists, the Financial Times reported.
Hong Kong’s main index, the Hang Seng, fell by 2.8 per cent today, January 21, while the Shanghai Composite Index in China dropped by 1.7 per cent.
Analysts say the drop followed the Chinese health commission’s announcement that the coronavirus outbreak was spreading between people, not just from animals. This raises the prospect of the outbreak becoming much more severe and fast-spreading.
The Chinese New Year will be celebrated this weekend and millions of people in East Asia are expected to travel for the festivities.
But tourism and shopping companies may see their profits take a hit if people change their plans for fear of the deadly virus spreading.
Major Chinese airlines saw their share values drop – Air China fell by 3.2 per cent and China Eastern by 3 per cent – and a company called Wharf Real Estate Investment, which runs shopping malls in Hong Kong, dropped by more than four per cent.
Economists told the FT the growing number of viral infections was ‘extremely concerning’ for businesses in China’s big cities and Hong Kong.
Over the weekend, 136 fresh infections were reported in Wuhan, bringing the total number of cases China has confirmed to more than 200
The majority of patients have been traced to the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market (pictured)
Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured) has warned Australians travelling to China they may be at risk of the deadly coronavirus
On Tuesday afternoon Mr Morrison urged Australians to ‘exercise a high degree of caution’
Ash Shorley, 32, is fighting for his life in Thailand and is feared to be the first Western victim of the coronavirus sweeping across China
Mr Shorley is in critical condition in a hospital in Phuket after being struck down with the pneumonia-like lung infection while visiting Koh Phi Phi island
Footage on social media purports to show medics in hazardous material suits checking Chinese passengers one by one with thermometers. The clip is reported to be filmed on an Air China flight from Wuhan to Macau on January 12 after the plane arrived at the airport in Macau
World Health Organization officials called an emergency meeting o Monday to discuss whether the coronavirus outbreak stemming from China comprises a global emergency (file)
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE NEW CHINESE VIRUS?
What is this virus?
The virus has been identified as a new type of coronavirus.
Coronaviruses are a large family of pathogens, most of which cause mild respiratory infections such as the common cold.
But coronaviruses can also be deadly. SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, is caused by a coronavirus and killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in the early 2000s.
Why hasn’t it been named yet?
The virus has not been named, although commonly goes by ‘nCoV2019’, which stands for novel (new) coronavirus 2019.
When a virus emerges slowly, as this one has, scientists have to work quickly to understand its severity, how it is spread and how deadly it is.
Jeremy Farrar, a specialist in infectious disease epidemics and director of the Wellcome Trust global health charity, said he thinks the virus will be named over the coming weeks and months because it is the ‘least important decision at the moment’.
What symptoms does it cause?
Its symptoms are typically a fever, cough and trouble breathing, but some patients have developed pneumonia, a potentially life-threatening infection that causes inflammation of the small air sacs in the lungs.
People carrying the novel coronavirus may only have mild symptoms, such as a sore throat. They may assume they have a common cold and not seek medical attention, experts fear.
How is it detected?
When the outbreak started in December 2019, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said hospitals across the city had treated a ‘successive series of patients with unexplained pneumonia’.
After investigations, a never-before-seen strain of coronavirus was identified and reported on January 9.
The virus’s genetic sequencing was released by scientists in China to the rest of the world to enable other countries to quickly diagnose potential new cases. This helps other countries respond quickly to disease outbreaks.
To contain the virus, airports are detecting infected people with temperature checks. But as with every virus, it has an incubation period, meaning detection is not always possible because symptoms have not appeared yet.
The incubation period of nCov2019 is not known. Research by Imperial College London suggested there is a 10-day window between someone being infected and detected, based on the evidence so far.
Can it kill?
Three people have so far died after testing positive for the virus. The first two patients who died suffered other health problems, so it is possible the virus is more lethal in vulnerable people.
The first patient, a 61-year-old-man, had abdominal tumours and chronic liver disease. The second, who was 69, had severe cardiomyopathy – a heart condition, abnormal kidney function, and seriously damaged organs.
Details about the third death have not been revealed.
How is it spread?
Investigations have focused on animals as the source because the majority of the first infected patients in Wuhan were traced to the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market, which has been shut down since January 1.
On January 14, the World Health Organization said there is some ‘limited’ human-to-human transmission of the virus.
Professor Zhong Nanshan, a renowned scientist at China’s National Health Commission, said human-to-human transmission is ‘affirmative’, in a press conference on January 20.
Two patients in southern China caught the virus from infected family members, according to local media. They had not visited Wuhan.
‘The child is considered a person under investigation,’ Philippine health secretary Francisco Duque told a press briefing in Manila.
Samples from the child were sent to a laboratory in Australia for further testing and authorities are awaiting the results.
The child had a fever, throat irritation and a cough before arriving in the central city of Cebu with a parent, the health department said.
Three other travellers from China were checked by authorities at another airport, but they did not show symptoms that corresponded with the coronavirus.
Increased control measures have been enforced at many places, with scientists still uncertain of the outbreak’s nature and mode of transmission.
But Professor Zhong Nanshan, of China’s National Health Commission, said human-to-human transmission was ‘affirmative’ in a press conference yesterday.
‘Currently, it can be said it is affirmative that there is the phenomenon of human-to-human transmission,’ he said, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
Two patients in southern China caught the virus from infected family members, and had not visited a seafood market thought to be at the centre of the outbreak.
Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market has been closed and under investigation since January 1 as scientists scramble to determine where the virus has come from.
In the same interview with CCTV, Professor Nanshan said 14 medical workers had been infected after treating a patient with the coronavirus.
Details about the healthcare workers have not yet come to light and only been discussed by Professor Nanshan.
A total of 222 people in Asia have now tested positive for the virus, which marks a sharp increase from the 48 on January 17.
The outbreak has spread within China, with cases recorded in Guangdong province, as well as Beijing and Shanghai.
Three other countries have also reported cases of the virus – Thailand, Japan and South Korea.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said earlier an animal source seemed to be ‘the most likely primary source’ of the virus.
Jeremy Farrar, a specialist in infectious disease epidemics and director of the Wellcome Trust global health charity, raised concerns about the number of people travelling through Wuhan.
He said: ‘Wuhan is a major hub and with travel being a huge part of the fast approaching Chinese New Year, the concern level must remain high.
‘There is more to come from this outbreak.’
He added that coughing is the ‘quickest way to spread an infection around the world’.
‘Whenever you get something new happening in humans, especially when it is spread by coughing, it is always a worry. It could get worse, it could get better – but you have to plan for it getting worse,’ Mr Farrar told MailOnline.
China is entering its busiest travel period due the Lunar New Year, which sees many people travelling back to their home town or village.
Countries including Japan, Australia and the US have adopted screening measures for those arriving from China due to concerns about a global outbreak like that caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which spread from China to more than a dozen countries in 2002 and 2003 and killed nearly 800 people.
An analysis from Imperial College London last week estimated the number of cases in Wuhan was probably around 1,700 – but could even be as high as 4,500.
The team did not look at how the virus may be transmitted, but said ‘past experience with SARS and MERS-CoV outbreaks of similar scale suggests currently self-sustaining human-to-human transmission should not be ruled out.’
South Korea confirmed its first case on January 20 after a 35-year-old woman arriving at Seoul’s Incheon airport tested positive for the virus. She had been in Wuhan last week.
Last week, one case was confirmed in Japan and two in Thailand, meaning the total number of confirmed cases outside of China now sits at four.
A British tourist fighting for his life in Thailand is feared to be the first Western victim, but this has not been confirmed.
Ash Shorley, 32, is in critical condition in a hospital in Phuket after being struck down with a lung infection while visiting Koh Phi Phi island.
Mr Shorley had to be transported to hospital by a specialised seaplane because his lung had collapsed and he could not cope with high altitude travel.
Doctors revealed his symptoms were consistent with the Chinese coronavirus. He has been in hospital for nearly a month.
THE NEW CORONAVIRUS IN CHINA TIMELINE
December 31 2019: The WHO China Country Office was informed of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. Around 44 suspected cases were reported in the month of December.
January 1 2020: A seafood market was closed for environmental sanitation and disinfection after being closely linked with the patients.
January 5 2020: Doctors ruled out severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) as being the cause of the virus, as well as bird flu, Middle East respiratory syndrome and adenovirus. Meanwhile, Hong Kong reported
January 9 2020: A preliminary investigation identified the respiratory disease as a new type of coronavirus, Chinese state media reported.
Officials at Wuhan Municipal Health Commission reported the outbreak’s first death on January 9, a 61-year-old man.
January 13 2020: A Chinese woman in Thailand was the first confirmed case of the mystery virus outside of China. The 61-year-old was quarantined on January 8, but has since returned home in a stable condition after having treatment, the Thai Health Ministry said.
January 14 2020: The WHO told hospitals around the globe to prepare, in the ‘possible’ event of the infection spreading.
It said there is some ‘limited’ human-to-human transmission of the virus. Two days previously, the UN agency said there was ‘no clear evidence of human to human transmission’.
January 16 2020: A man in Tokyo is confirmed to have tested positive for the disease after travelling to the Chinese city of Wuhan.
A second death, a 69-year-old man, was reported by officials at Wuhan Municipal Health Commission. He died in the early hours of January 15 at Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan city having first been admitted to hospital on December 31.
January 17 2020: Thailand announces it has detected a second case. The 74-year-old woman had been quarantined since her arrival on Monday. She lived in Wuhan.
Scientists at Imperial College London fear up to 4,500 patients in Wuhan may have caught the virus. A report said if cases are this high, substantial human to human transmission can’t be ruled out.
John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK), San Francisco International Airport and Los Angles International Airport (LAX) will start screening passengers arriving from Wuhan, US officials said.
January 20 2020: China reported a sharp rise in the number of people infected with a new coronavirus over the weekend, including 136 more cases in Wuhan city.
The outbreak spread across China, as authorities in Shenzhen in southern China reported one case, and Chinese state media said Beijing had reported two cases.
South Korea confirmed its first case – a 35-year-old woman arriving at Seoul’s Incheon airport tested positive for the virus. She had been in Wuhan the week prior.
The total number of confirmed cases reached 205, including three deaths and four confirmed cases outside China.
Details were not revealed about the third death.