Chinese authorities announced on Saturday, January 11th that a 61-year-old man has died from pneumonia in the central city of Wuhan after an outbreak of a new virus from the same family as SARS, while seven others are in critical condition, according to AFP.
On Thursday, January 9th, 41 people were diagnosed with a pathogen that caused “pneumonia-like symptoms.” Preliminary lab tests cited by Chinese state media earlier this week pointed to a new type of coronavirus, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said in a statement on its website.
In addition, seven others remained in serious condition, two were discharged from treatment, and the rest were stable, while 739 people deemed to have been in close contact with the patients have been cleared, the statement added.
The first victim of the outbreak that began in December frequented a seafood market in the city who had been previously diagnosed with abdominal tumours and chronic liver disease, according to the Chinese health authority.
On January 1st, the seafood market, identified by authorities as the centre of the outbreak, was closed, according to the Wuhan health commission.
No new cases have been detected since January 3rd, nor was there any "clear evidence of human-to-human transmission," the commission said.
Scientists in Hong Kong's Department of Health said on Saturday that genetic sequencing of the virus found in one of the Wuhan patients indicated it was 80% similar to the SARS virus found in bats.
Wong Ka-hing, director of the department's Health Protection Centre, said, “We will remain alert, as we believe the epidemic will continue to develop.”
The number of people who have been hospitalised with flu-like symptoms in recent days after travelling to Wuhan had grown to 60, including seven new cases since Friday, January 10th, Hong Kong authorities said on Saturday.
However, 46 have already been discharged, and none have been diagnosed with the new coronavirus yet.
A range of precautionary measures have been taken by Honk Kong authorities, including stepping up the disinfection of trains and planes, as well as checks of passengers.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause infections ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Common symptoms include a runny nose, headache, cough, and fever, while shortness of breath, chills, and body aches are associated with more dangerous kinds of coronavirus, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
On Thursday, January 9th, the World Health Organisation said that a newly emerging member of the family of viruses that caused the deadly SARS and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreaks could be the cause of the present outbreak.
In 2002-2003, the spectre of SARS killed 349 people in mainland China and another 299 in Hong Kong.