The virus has been likened to pneumonia and it is thought to potentially be a new strain. It has infected 59 people in the city of Wuhan but doesn’t seem to be transmitting among humans.
According to authorities, the possibility that the disease is SARS has been ruled out by epidemiologists. Investigators have also ruled out the possibility that the virus is Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) or bird flu.
It’s virus evolution versus public health control measures to try to prevent spread
The virus causes symptoms that include breathing difficulties, fever and invasive lesions to both lungs, which can be seen in radiographs.
As some of those affected worked at a seafood market in Wuhan, it is possible that the disease has been transmitted from animals. Ralph Baric, who studies emerging viruses at the University of North Carolina in the US, stated: “It sounds to me like it’s something that’s jumped from animals to humans, and it’s in early stages. And right now, it’s virus evolution versus public health control measures to try to prevent spread.”
The World Health Organization said that it is monitoring the situation closely and is in close contact with Chinese authorities. It stated that it will share more details as they become available.
With China’s Spring Festival taking place on 25 January, an event linked with significant travel, it is important that the public is on alert for pneumonia-like symptoms.
Story updated on Tuesday 21 January.