Beijing (dpa) - The number of confirmed cases of a new lung disease in China has skyrocketed to around 200. There are now three known deaths, as reported by the health authority in the severely affected central Chinese metropolis of Wuhan.

For the first time, infections with the coronavirus were also found in other places in China. Experts fear that the pathogen that has probably jumped over from an animal can also be transmitted from person to person, contrary to what was initially thought.

Connection with fish market in Wuhan

China's health commission said in Beijing that the transmission route was “not yet fully understood”. The initial infections were associated with a now closed Wuhan fish market, which also sold wildlife. The majority of infections continued to focus on the 11 million metropolis with 198 known cases. 35 of the patients there are seriously ill, nine of them are in critical condition, as reported by the health authority.

Coronaviruses often cause harmless illnesses such as colds - however, analyzes of the genome, according to the Berlin virus researcher Christian Drosten, showed that the pathogen is a Sars variant. Sars stands for “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome”. Starting in China in 2002/2003, a Sars virus resulted in a worldwide pandemic with 8,000 infected people, and around 800 people died.

Avoid animal markets and contact with animals

With the current wave of travel to the Chinese New Year next Saturday (January 25), the risk of transmission of infectious diseases is growing. Hundreds of millions of Chinese are on the move during the largest annual migration. Asian neighbors and three US airports have now introduced fever controls on entry from Wuhan because of the new lung disease.

The World Health Organization has so far not issued a travel warning for tourists. The American health agency CDC only advised travelers to Wuhan to avoid animal markets and contact with animals or with sick people. "There could be limited human-to-human transmission."

WHO

CDC US health agency with advice for travelers