According to Chinese health officials, the new coronavirus sweeping the nation has resulted in 17 deaths and over 500 confirmed infected cases and counting as of January 2020. Additional cases reported include infected travelers from Wuhan to Japan, Thailand, Singapore South Korea, and the United States. The outbreak began in mid-December 2019 in the city of Wuhan with a population of 11 million people and has now sickened those across 13 Chinese provinces.
The Chinese Center for Disease Control describes the new disease as the seventh type of coronavirus known to affect humans. The previously discovered six types include Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), a coronavirus that spread from China’s Guangdong province in November 2002. The country was announced clear of SARS in May 2004 after infecting 8,437 in 30 countries, causing 813 deaths. A rapid spread of a new SARS-like disease before millions begin their travels for the Lunar New Year has triggered fear and unease in the general public. China’s National Health Commission will continue to announce new cases throughout the festive season and will prioritize better equipping of local healthcare workers and boosting international cooperation.
Despite there being no evidence of super spreaders or highly contagious patients, the Chinese government has warned the public to avoid densely populated areas nationwide. Strict measures to minimize public gatherings and requests to refrain from traveling have been imposed in Wuhan and the city of Hubei. Additionally, public transportation such as flight, train, bus, ferry and subway services have been temporarily shut down in the effort to control the outbreak of the virus. Representatives of the World Health Organization along with health officials from Hong Kong and Taiwan have been invited to Wuhan to study the virus more closely to create a vaccine and contain its spread.