The Chinese Health Commission confirmed on Monday that the new virus causing an outbreak of pneumonia in the country has been passing on from person to person and has infected some of the medical staff, China's official Xinhua news agency said.

Zhong Nanshan, the head of the health commission investigative team which is investigating the outbreak and a respiratory expert, confirmed to Xinhua that the two cases of the virus in Guandong Province in China were due to human-to-human transmission. The authorities confirmed a fourth death on Tuesday.

The officials also said that human-to-human spread can be stopped with increased vigilance.

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Flu (Representational picture) Pixabay

Identification of the virus

According to Zhong, it only took two weeks for the virus to be noticed. The Chinese Health Commission was able to identify it in the early stages and control it because of good quarantine systems.

There are reports of more than 200 cases so far. The virus has been spreading from the central city of Wuhan which has one of the largest populations in China.

Australia on Tuesday said they would be screening passengers arriving from Wuhan for the virus. Several countries around the world including the US have tightened the screening process. The virus has already been noticed in a few other South Asian countries.

As of 6pm local time, China confirmed around 216 cases of the virus, out of which 196 were reported from Wuhan. On Monday, January 19, the fourth person infected by the virus passed away in the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission. Around 15 medical workers in Wuhan alone were diagnosed with pneumonia.

The WHO is convening on Wednesday to determine whether the outbreak constitutes an international health emergency. The UN agency has not recommended travel restrictions till now.