‘Particularly dangerous’: Coronavirus that has killed 17 could be mutating, adapting, says China
Human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus, which triggers a severe pneumonia, was confirmed by Chinese officials on Tuesday as experts continue to grapple with its source.Updated: Jan 22, 2020 20:28 IST
The novel Coronavirus that has killed 17 and infected upwards of 500 people worldwide could be mutating, adapting and could spread further, top Chinese officials warned Wednesday as authorities race to contain it amid the growing fear of a wider outbreak.
China now has confirmed 500 cases of the previously unknown strain of virus spread across 13 provinces, most of them located in the country’s heavily populated in central, south and eastern regions.
First cases of the disease were reported from Hong Kong and Macau on Wednesday, both special administration regions (SAR) of China. More than a 100 in Hong Kong are under observation.
More provinces including the southern-most Hainan province also reported the first confirmed cases of the disease.
Cases of the Coronavirus, from the same family as Sars, have also been detected in Thailand, Japan, South Korean, Taiwan and the US.
It is said to have originated from seafood market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei province, which, as officials said Wednesday, was also dealing in “illegal wildlife”.
Human-to-human transmission of the virus, which triggers a severe pneumonia, was confirmed by Chinese officials on Tuesday as experts continue to grapple with its source.
More than 90 percent of the cases have been traced back to Wuhan and the seafood market.
“Recently there has been a big change in the number of cases, which is related to our deepening our understanding of the disease, improving diagnostic methods and optimising the distribution of diagnostic kits,” said Li Bin, vice-minister of China’s national health commission (NHC) said at one of the first high-level briefings on the outbreak held in Beijing on Wednesday.
Lin added 2,197 people who came into contact with infected people were isolated, with 765 so far released from observation,
“Though the transmission route of the virus is yet to be fully understood, there is a possibility of virus mutation and a risk of further spread of the epidemic,” Li said.
Gao Fu, head of the Chinese Centre for Disease and Control said at the same briefing that the virus could already be “mutating and adapting” and that has made it “…particularly dangerous”.
There is evidence of community-based transmission and risk of “further spread of the disease,” Gao said.
The increasing risk from the virus comes as hundreds of millions of China travel within the country and abroad for Lunar New Year (LNY) holidays; at least 3 billion trips are expected to be made within China in a 40-day travel rush, which began on January 10.
Vice-minister Li said the festival rush would “increase the risk of the disease spreading and the difficulty of prevention and control”.
As many 32 government departments and agencies are coordinating nationwide to control the spread of the disease, Li said.
Containment measures focussed on the city of Wuhan have been put in place.
On Wednesday, the NHC announced measures to contain the disease, including disinfection and ventilation at airports, train stations and shopping centres.
“When needed, temperature checks will also be implemented in key areas at crowded places,” the commission said in a statement.
The exit and entry of people into Wuhan is being controlled.
Li added there was as yet no evidence of “super-spreaders” capable of spreading the virus more widely but authorities were already taking appropriate measures.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has convened an emergency meeting later on Wednesday to consider declaring a global health emergency over the outbreak.