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Mysterious Virus: Chinese President Xi says new virus must be 'resolutely contained': state media

Cases triple as infection spreads to Beijing and Shanghai


Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Monday the country would curb the spread of an outbreak of pneumonia caused by a new coronavirus, state television reported.

“People’s lives and health should be given top priority and the spread of the outbreak should be resolutely curbed,” it quoted Xi as saying.

China had confirmed a total 217 cases of the coronavirus, first discovered in the central city of Wuhan, by 1800 local time on Monday, state TV said.

The number of people infected with a new virus in China tripled over the weekend, with the outbreak spreading from Wuhan to other major cities.

There are now more than 200 cases, mostly in Wuhan, though the respiratory illness has also been detected in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen.

Three people have died. Japan, Thailand and South Korea have reported cases.

The sharp rise comes as millions of Chinese prepare to travel for the Lunar New Year holidays.

Health officials have identified the infection, which first appeared in Wuhan in December, as a strain of coronavirus. They say it has led to an outbreak of viral pneumonia, but much about it remains unknown.

Although the outbreak is believed to have originated from a market, officials and scientists are yet to determine exactly how it has been spreading.

The outbreak has revived memories of the Sars virus - also a coronavirus - that killed 774 people in the early 2000s across dozens of countries, mostly in Asia. Analysis of the genetic code of the new virus shows it is more closely related to Sars than any other human coronavirus.

Experts said the number of people infected could still be far greater than official figures suggest, with estimates closer to 1,700.

The foreign ministry, meanwhile, said China was providing "timely information about the disease" and would "work with all parties to deal with the virus".

State media has been urging citizens not to panic and on Sunday the National Health Commission said the virus was "still preventable and controllable" although close monitoring was needed.

It said there had been no cases of the virus spreading from one person to another, but that it had instead crossed the species barrier and come from infected animals at a seafood and wildlife market in Wuhan.

However the WHO said it believed there had been "some limited human-to-human transmission occurring between close contacts".

"As more… cases are identified and more analysis undertaken, we will get a clearer picture of disease severity and transmission patterns," it wrote on Twitter.

It noted that the rise in cases in China was a result of "increased searching and testing for [the virus] among people sick with respiratory illness".

The Mysterious Virus

World Health Organization Source said the 2019-nCoV, as it's been labelled, is understood to be a new strain of coronavirus that has not previously been identified in humans

Coronaviruses are a broad family of viruses, but only six (the new one would make it seven) are known to infect people.

Scientists believe an animal source is "the most likely primary source" but that some human-to-human transmission has occurred.

Signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

People are being advised to avoid "unprotected" contact with live animals, thoroughly cook meat and eggs, and avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.

Sources: Reuters and BBC

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