(Reuters) - An outbreak of a new coronavirus that began in the central Chinese city of Wuhan has killed 17 and infected nearly 600 people globally.
Global health authorities fear the transmission rate will accelerate as hundreds of millions of Chinese travel at home and abroad during the week-long Lunar New Year holiday that begins on Saturday.
Here is what we know so far:
- China’s National Health Commission confirmed 571 cases and 17 deaths at the end of Jan 22.
- Thailand has reported four cases, and South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and the United States one each. Patients in these cases were either residents of Wuhan or recent visitors to the city.
- Symptoms include fever, cough and difficulty breathing.
- There is no vaccine for the new virus, which China says is mutating. It says there is evidence ofrespiratory transmission.
- Preliminary research suggests the virus was passed to humans from snakes, but Chinese government medical adviser Zhong Nanshan has also identified badgers and rats as possible sources.
- The previously unknown strain is believed to have emerged late last year from illegally traded wildlife at an animal market in Wuhan.
- Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, is on lockdown, with urban transport networks shut and outgoing flights suspended.
- Wuhan residentshave rushedto hospitals for checks and scrambledfor supplies at supermarkets and petrol stations.
- Nearby Huanggang, a city of 6 million people, is suspending public transportandclosing indoor venues, including movie theatres and internet cafes, from the end of Thursday.
- Airports in the United States, Britain and the Middle East, as well as in Asian countries, have stepped up screening of passengers. Russia has strengthened sanitary and quarantine controls at entry points.
- The World Health Organization will decide on Thursday whether to declare the outbreak a global health emergency, which would step up the international response.
- World shares fell on Thursday, led by the biggest decline in Chinese stocks in more than eight months, as concern mounted about the spread of the virus. [MKTS/GLOB]
Writing by Se Young Lee in Beijing; Editing by Alison Williams and Janet Lawrence