Mystery Chinese virus ‘could have infected hundreds’

18 January 2020, 08:20

An official uses a temperature scanner to monitor passengers arriving at Hong Kong International airport in Hong Kong
An official uses a temperature scanner to monitor passengers arriving at Hong Kong International airport in Hong Kong. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

Four more cases of a mysterious respiratory illness have been identified in China, with fears that the number of those affected might be far higher than official figures suggest.

The outbreak in the central Chinese city of Wuhan has killed two people and prompted the United States and other countries to take precautionary measures.

Forty five people have contracted the illness, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said on Saturday, with five people in a serious condition.

The cause of the pneumonia has been traced to a new type of coronavirus.

Health experts in the UK have revealed they fear many more people may have contracted the disease. "I am substantially more concerned than I was a week ago," disease outbreak scientist, Professor Neil Ferguson said.

Authorities in Singapore and Hong Kong have begun screening all air passengers from Wuhan and US authorities announced similar measures at major airports in San Francisco, LA and New York.

There have been two cases in Thailand and one in Japan.

Health authorities are keen to avoid a repeat of severe axute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which started in southern China in late 2002 and spread to more than two dozen countries, killing nearly 800 people.

At least a half-dozen countries in Asia also have started screening incoming airline passengers from central China.

The list includes Thailand and Japan, which both have reported cases of the disease in people who had come from Wuhan.

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