Beijing (dpa) - After the outbreak of the mysterious lung disease in China, the number of confirmed cases has skyrocketed to around 200. Another patient died. There are now three deaths, as reported by the health authority in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
For the first time, infections with the novel corona virus were also found in other places in China. In the Daxing district in Beijing, two patients tested positive for the new corona virus, and one in Shenzhen in southern China. All three had previously been to Wuhan. The majority of infections continued to focus on the 11 million metropolis with 198 cases. Of the patients there, 35 are seriously ill, nine are in critical condition, the health agency reported.
Only 60 cases had been officially confirmed by Sunday. But researchers at the British Center for the Analysis of Global Infectious Diseases at Imperial College London believe that the spread of the disease is much larger than previously known. According to their probability calculation, the experts estimate the number of patients to be more than 1,700.
The experts also warn of a possible transmission of the virus from person to person. China's health commission warned in Beijing that the origin of the new type of coronavirus has not yet been found. Nor was it certain how people were infected: "The transmission is not yet fully understood." Nevertheless, experts considered the outbreak to be "controllable".
It is believed that the novel virus comes from the animal world. The initial infections were linked to a now closed Wuhan fish market, which also sold wild animals. Corona viruses often cause harmless illnesses such as colds - however, pathogens of dangerous respiratory diseases such as Sars and Mers are also included.
The Sars virus, which the new pathogen is similar to, probably also came from the animal world. Sars stands for “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome”. In the Sars pandemic in 2002/2003, around 8000 people worldwide had developed the disease from China. Almost 800 died. At the time, the outbreak was initially covered up, which prevented a quick response and initially promoted its spread.
Just over a week ago, experts had decoded the gene sequence of the new virus, which makes testing in patients with pneumonia of unknown cause easier. There are also cases abroad. Two infections were confirmed in Thailand and one case in Wuhan travelers in Japan. However, the three patients had not visited the animal market, where the origin is suspected. This warned experts against human-to-human transmission.
The World Health Organization has so far not issued a travel warning for tourists. However, the US Department of Health (CDC) advised travelers to Wuhan to avoid animal markets and to avoid contact with animals or with sick people. "A limited transmission from person to person could occur," it said in the message.
As a precaution, Asian neighbors have introduced fever controls on people arriving from China. The US airports in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles also carry out health checks on travelers from Wuhan. The risk of transmission of infectious diseases increases with the ongoing wave of travel to the Chinese New Year next Saturday. Hundreds of millions of Chinese people travel in the largest annual migration.