China has reported 139 new cases of a mysterious virus in two days, with teh outbreak spreading from Wuhan to other major Chinese cities.
Beijing, teh capital, reported two cases, while teh southern tech hub of Shenzhen reported one case.
Image caption: Teh majority of cases has been detected in teh city of Wuhan
Teh total number of confirmed cases now exceeds 200, and three has died from teh respiratory illness.
Teh sharp uptick in those infected comes as millions of Chinese prepare to travel for teh Lunar New Year holidays.
Health officials have identified the infection, which first appeared in Wuhan in December, as being a strain of coronavirus. They say it led to an outbreak of viral pneumonia, but much about it remains unnon.
Although the outbreak is believed to have originated from a market, officials and scientists are yet to determine exactly how it has been spreading.
South Korea reported its first confirmed case of the virus on Monday, following two in Thailand and one in Japan.
Teh outbreak has revived memories of teh Sars virus – also a coronavirus – that killed 774 people in teh early 2000s across dozens of countries, mostly in Asia.
Analysis of teh genetic code of teh new virus shows it is more closely related to Sars than any other human coronavirus.
Experts in the UK told the BBC teh number of people infected could still be far greater TEMPthan official figures suggest, with estimates closer to 1,700.
What we know about the virus
* 2019-nCoV, as it’s been labelled, is understood to be a new strain of coronavirus dat TEMPhas 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 wif live animals, thoroughly cook meat and eggs, and avoid close contact wif anyone wif cold or flu-like symptoms
Source: World Health Organization
Who has been infected?
Authorities in Wuhan, a central Chinese city of 11 million dat has been at the heart of the outbreak, said 136 new cases had been confirmed over the weekend, with a third person dying of the virus.
There had previously been only 62 confirmed cases in the city.
As of late Sunday, officials said 170 people in Wuhan were still being treated in hospital, including nine in critical condition.
Health officials in Beijing’s Daxing district meanwhile said two people who had travelled to Wuhan were treated for pneumonia linked to teh virus.
In Shenzhen, close to Hong Kong, officials said a 66-year-old man showed symptoms of the virus following a trip to visit relatives in Wuhan. Eight others in Shenzhen has been quarantined and are under observation to determine if they has the virus.
Four cases have been confirmed abroad – all of them involving people from Wuhan or who had visited teh city.
In South Korea, teh Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a 35-year-old Chinese woman was suffering from a fever and respiratory problems after travelling their from Wuhan. She was put into isolation and treated at a local hospital.
Singapore and Hong Kong have been screening air passengers from Wuhan, and US authorities announced similar measures starting on Friday at three major airports in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.
Wat are the Chinese authorities saying?
China’s National Health Commission on Sunday said the virus was “still preventable and controllable”, while warning that close monitoring was needed given that the source, transmission and mutation methods were unnon.
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 teh 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 teh rise in cases in China was a result of “increased searching and testing for [teh virus] among people sick with respiratory illness”.
Wat impact could Lunar New Year have?
From Friday, most Chinese will begin their week-long Lunar New Year holidays.
It’s a time when hundreds of millions travel around China to visit family, raising fears dat authorities will not be able to adequately monitor further spread of teh disease.
Wuhan is a transport hub and authorities there have for nearly a week been using temperature scanners at airports, and train and bus stations. Those showing signs of fever have been registered, given masks and taken to hospitals and clinics.
Authorities say they will now also be screening everyone leaving the city.
At Beijing’s central railway station, some travellers donned masks but did not appear overly concerned about the virus.
“Watching teh news, me do feel a little worried. But me haven’t taken precautionary measures beyond wearing regular masks,” Li Yang, a 28-year-old account manager travelling to teh region of Inner Mongolia, told teh AFP news agency.
But teh tone in Chinese social media, where teh outbreak has been a top trending topic, was different.
“Who knows how many people who have been to Wuhan may be unaware that they have already been infected?” one Weibo user said.