Health officials in Beijing have confirmed two cases of a new coronavirus today. An additional case has been reported in Shenzhen by authorities in the province of Guangdong. This is the first confirmation that the newfound virus has spread domestically beyond the central city of Wuhan. A city that all three carriers had recently visited according to authorities. China has reported 139 cases of pneumonia caused by a coronavirus. There have been three deaths due to the virus and there is now confirmation that it has spread past the city it was first identified in.
Over the weekend the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission received 136 new patients of those one person died, two are in critical condition and 33 are in serious condition. The new patients diagnosed Saturday and Sunday have brought the total number of people in China to 201. A giant leap from only 62 reported prior to the weekend. A total of 14 health care workers have now been infected as well as a result of treating infected patients.
The outbreak of this new strain has been identified by Chinese scientists a strain of coronavirus, coming from the same family as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). So far the new virus has not shown death rates like SARS did back in 2002 and 2003 which killed 774 people in Asia and infected 8000 more. A new study by Imperial College London predicts the number of infections in Wuhan has likely been ‘grossly underestimated. What is more troubling still is that the country is getting ready to celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday later this week.
The new virus was originally determined to have “limited human-to-human transmission” however the overnight spike in patients suggests that the transmission might be easier than officials had once thought. Throughout the Lunar New Year Holiday, hundreds of millions of Chinese will travel across the country and overseas.
Last week, there were three cases reported outside of China with two in Thailand and one in Japan. All three cases have been linked back to Wuhan. South Korea announced earlier today that it also has one confirmed case of coronavirus.
China has set up temperature screenings at airports as well as several other Asian countries along with select cities in the U.S. One woman was detected by a temperature screening at Seoul’s Incheon International Airport of having the virus and has since been quarantined and remains in stable condition. The woman, a Wuhan resident was on vacation hoping to spend time in South Korea and Japan.
“I believe Chinese tourists will bring the virus to many other countries in Asia in the coming days, due to their overseas travels during the Lunar New Year holiday,” Professor David Hui Shu-Cheong, a respiratory expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told CNN Monday.
“The detection of three cases outside China is worrying. We calculate, based on flight and population data, that there is only a 1 in 574 chance that a person infected in Wuhan would travel overseas before they sought medical care. This implies there might have been over 1,700 cases in Wuhan so far,” Imperial College London’s Neil Ferguson, a disease outbreak scientist, told CNN.
The infrared thermometers that have been installed at airports in Wuhan were only brought in five weeks after the onset of the outbreak. There have been countless passengers to come and go through Wuhan without screening prior to that, leaving officials worried that the gravity of the outbreak has yet to be understood.