The toll of the virus plaguing China is already four dead and more than 200 cases diagnosed. According to a leading researcher, transmission between humans also seems to be confirmed.
Since November 12, 218 people have been officially affected in Asia by a mysterious epidemic of viral pneumonia. This assessment could however be largely underestimated. Researchers at Imperial College London warned in an article published on Friday that the number of actual cases was probably higher (closer to 1,700).
The genetic sequencing of the virus also confirmed that we were dealing with a new type of coronavirus similar to 80% of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) which had 774 deaths worldwide in 2002-2003 (including 349 in mainland China ).
Communicable between humans
Although all the cases diagnosed at the outset came from Wuhan, the cradle of the epidemic, the virus has since spread rapidly. Beijing and Shanghai have indeed confirmed their first cases on Monday. In addition, more than a dozen others have appeared in southern Guangdong province. Three people were also affected in Thailand and three others in Japan. South Korea has also just registered its first case, as has Australia. These people returning from China were directly placed in solitary confinement.
Questioned a few hours ago by CCTV (Central Television of China), Dr. Zhong Nanshan, of the National Health Commission, said that contagious transmission between people was now “proven”.
The situation is therefore becoming urgent, especially since according to a new press release from the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus has also already killed four people.
Health officials also fear an increase in the number of cases reported during the Lunar New Year holidays, which will begin on January 25. The city of Wuhan will indeed serve as a hub, dispersing tens of millions of people across the country who will visit their loved ones.
Increasingly strict security measures
In response to the growing threat posed by this mysterious virus, authorities in Wuhan have installed infrared thermometers at city airports and train and bus stations to screen feverish passengers. All residents also receive masks.
Abroad, the epidemic is also taken very seriously. Hong Kong Macao, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia report that controls are in place. Los Angeles, New York (JFK) and San Francisco airports have also tightened controls on all flights from Wuhan.
A group of WHO experts will also meet in Geneva on Wednesday. They will determine whether or not to declare the epidemic “a public health emergency of international concern”. It is a rare designation used only for the most serious epidemics.