New virus has killed 17 in China

The number of fatalities from a new type of pneumonia rose to seventeen, with the death of eight more patients, while the total number of infected people reached 444.

The figures were put forward by the authorities in Wuhan, a city in central China where the outbreak originated.

The National Health Commission of the Asian country also warned today that the new type of coronavirus “can mutate and spread more easily”.
The virus was initially detected last month in Wuhan, which is also an important center for domestic and international transport.

The outbreak comes at a time when millions of Chinese people are traveling, on the occasion of the Lunar New Year, the main holiday for Chinese families, equivalent to Christmas in Western countries.
According to the Chinese Ministry of Transport, a total of three billion domestic trips are expected to be recorded over the next 40 days.

The cases fueled fears about a potential epidemic, similar to that of atypical pneumonia, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which between 2002 and 2003 killed 650 people in mainland China and Hong Kong.

Health officials have announced measures to contain the disease, including disinfecting ventilation systems at airports, stations and shopping centers. “If necessary, temperature controls will also be carried out in key areas and busy places”, explained the Commission, in a statement.

Outside China, cases of the new coronavirus have been confirmed among Chinese travelers in South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Taiwan and the United States, all also from Wuhan.
Several countries with direct or indirect air connections to Wuhan are conducting systematic checks on passengers on flights from areas considered to be at risk.

In Macau, the authorities have announced that they will individually check passengers from Wuhan, “by air, sea or land”. The World Health Organization (WHO) will meet today to decide whether to declare a “public health emergency of international interest”.