Beijing (dpa) - In China, a new type of lung disease has cost another patient's life. According to the health authority of the central Chinese metropolis of Wuhan, an 89-year-old man who was infected with the corona virus died in the hospital on Sunday.

This has confirmed four deaths in China since the onset of the disease. The patient already suffered from previous illnesses, including heart disease and diabetes.

The virus was also detected in at least 15 hospital employees in Wuhan, where the virus broke out in late December. Accordingly, there is another suspected case among the medical employees.

On Monday, the authorities announced for the first time that nursing staff had been affected and confirmed that the pathogen could be transmitted from person to person. For experts, it is an important indicator whether doctors and nurses are affected by a new illness: if many of them become infected, this is a clear indication of easy transferability. The number of confirmed infections had jumped to over 220 at the beginning of the week. The first diseases were also detected in Thailand, Japan and South Korea.

According to Christian Drosten, a virus researcher from Berlin, analyzes of the genetic material showed that the pathogen is a Sars variant. Starting in China in 2002/2003, a Sars virus resulted in a worldwide pandemic with 8,000 infected people, and around 800 people died.

With the current wave of travel to the Chinese New Year next Saturday, the risk of transmission of the virus is growing. Hundreds of millions of Chinese are on the move during the largest annual migration. Asian neighbors and several airports in other countries around the world have now introduced fever controls on entering Wuhan due to the new lung disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) called its emergency committee because of the new lung disease in China. The experts should advise on Wednesday whether a health emergency should be declared, as the WHO reported on Monday. These independent experts also recommend measures that may need to be taken.

If WHO declares an international health emergency, it recommends stricter measures to combat the disease. This may include border controls, the establishment of specialized treatment centers or possible vaccinations by medical professionals.