A mysterious SARS-like virus has killed third person and spread around China — including to Beijing — authorities said Monday, fueling fears of a major outbreak as millions begin travelling for the Lunar New Year in humanity's biggest migration.
According to Press TV, the new corona virus strain, first discovered in the central city of Wuhan, has caused alarm because of its connection to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
Wuhan has 11 million inhabitants and serves as a major transport hub, including during the annual Lunar New Year holiday which begins later this week and sees hundreds of millions of Chinese people travel across the country to visit family.
No human-to-human transmission has been confirmed so far, but authorities have previously said the possibility "cannot be excluded."
A third person was confirmed to have died and 136 new cases were found over the weekend in Wuhan, the local health commission said, taking the total number of people to have been diagnosed with the virus in China to 201.
Three cases have been reported overseas — two in Thailand and one in Japan, all of whom had visited Wuhan.
Health authorities in Beijing's Daxing district said two people who had travelled to Wuhan were treated for pneumonia linked to the virus and are in stable condition.
In southern Guangdong Province, a 66-year-old Shenzhen man was quarantined on January 11 after contracting a fever and showing other symptoms following a trip to visit relatives in Wuhan, the provincial health commission said in a statement. He is also in stable condition.
Shenzhen officials said another eight people were under medical observation.
"Experts believe that the current epidemic situation is still preventable and controllable," the Guangdong health commission said.
Five other people have been put in isolation and tested in eastern Zhejiang province.
A seafood market is believed to be the centre of the outbreak in Wuhan, but health officials have reported that some patients had no history of contact with the facility.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement on Twitter Monday that "an animal source seems the most likely primary source" with "some limited human-to-human transmission occurring between close contacts."