There have been some significant developments today related to the reported outbreaks for the Wuhan coronavirus, which can cause a life-threatening pneumonia-like illness.

Beijing has canceled major Chinese New Year events to stop further spread of the disease.

Officials in the Chinese capital have scrapped events including temple fairs – which can attract thousands of tourists.

Residents have been urged to ‘strengthen prevention’ against the virus, which has killed 17 and potentially infected thousands.

Almost 600 people have been confirmed to have the virus, with cases recorded in the US, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau – as well as China.

In a post on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo, Beijing authorities added that the move was to help epidemic prevention and control.

We reported that Wuhan, the city that is the epicenter of the disease, had been quarantined by Chinese public health officials. Now, eight cities with a total population of 18 million are on a transportation lock-down.

Meanwhile, Chinese authorities have imposed travel bans on more cities in Hubei province and announced the allocation of funds to fight the spread of illness that has infected at least 647 people.

Eight cities in Hubei – Wuhan, Huanggang, Ezhou, Chibi, Xiantao, Qianjiang, Zhijiang and Lichuan – are now subject to travel bans, according to notices released by local governments in the province.

…Hubei authorities also have suspended operations at local travel agencies and ordered all schools to postpone the start of spring semester classes, according to the newspaper, a Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece.

China’s finance ministry on Thursday announced the allocation of 1 billion yuan (US$144 million) to be used by Hubei authorities to halt the spread of the illness.

In addition to the Washington state patient receiving treatment in Seattle, more potential coronavirus cases are under investigation:

  • A passenger from Mexico City arrived in Los Angeles via LAX and was transported to a nearby medical center for disease control, after showing symptoms requiring medical attention upon arrival.
  • There is a suspected case of the coronavirus under investigation in Brazos County, Texas; the patient had recently traveled to Wuhan. Brazos County is the home of College Station and Texas A&M University.

Researchers, who have been investigating this virus since reports of a mysterious pneumonia-like illness broke late last year, may have identified snakes as the pathogen’s potential origin.

Using samples of the virus isolated from patients, scientists in China have determined the genetic code of the virus and used microscopes to photograph it. The pathogen responsible for this pandemic is a new coronavirus.

It’s in the same family of viruses as the well-known severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which have killed hundreds of people in the past 17 years. The World Health Organization (WHO) has named the new coronavirus 2019-nCoV.

The World Health Organization is still reluctant to declare this an international public health emergency.

Such a declaration can bring more money and other resources to fight a threat but can also trigger economically damaging restrictions on trade and travel in the affected countries, making the decision a politically fraught one.

The decision “should not be taken as a sign that WHO does not think the situation is serious or that we’re not taking it seriously. Nothing could be further from the truth,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “WHO is following this outbreak every minute of every day.”

But while the epidemic was clearly a crisis in China, “it has not yet become a global health emergency. It may yet become one,” he added.

 

 
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