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China confirms human-to-human transmission as SARS-like virus spreads

China confirms human-to-human transmission as SARS-like virus spreads

AFP
Beijing
A SARS-like virus that has spread across China and reached three other Asian nations is contagious between humans, a government expert said on Monday, fuelling fears of a major outbreak as millions travel for the Lunar New Year holiday.
The new coronavirus strain, first discovered in the central city of Wuhan, has caused alarm because of its connection to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
The total number of people diagnosed with the virus rose to 218, as Beijing and Shanghai confirmed their first cases on Monday while more than a dozen more emerged in southern Guangdong province and and 136 new ones were found over the weekend in Wuhan, according to state broadcaster CCTV. A third person died in Wuhan, the local health commission said.
Scientists have scrambled to determine the mode of transmission, with a seafood market in Wuhan believed to be the centre of the outbreak. But Zhong Nanshan, a renowned scientist at the National Health Commission who helped expose the scale of the SARS outbreak, said patients could contract the new virus without having visited the city.
“Currently, it can be said it is affirmative that there is the phenomenon of human-to- human transmission,” he said in an interview with CCTV.
In Guangdong, two patients were infected by family members who visited Wuhan, Zhong explained.
Fourteen medical personnel helping with coronavirus patients have also been infected, he said, though he added that more than 95 of the total cases were related to Wuhan.
The World Health Organization said earlier an animal source seemed to be “the most likely primary source” with “some limited human-to-human transmission occurring between close contacts”.
Wuhan has 11 million inhabitants and serves as a major transport hub, including during the annual Lunar New Year.

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