SARS-like virus claims second life in China's Wuhan as WHO issues worldwide alert

Japan and Thailand have reported one case each of the viral infection, as authorities in Asia step up monitoring in airports

A second fatality has been confirmed in China, linked to a mysterious coronavirus. Two cases have been reported outside China: one in Thailand, and the other in Japan. The virus' strain, that has infected 43, till now, is being likened to the deadly SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which claimed about 800 lives in 2002-03. Not much information is available about the strain of the virus, whose outbreak, since December last year, has caused worldwide panic.

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Center of outbreak

A 69-year old man died on Wednesday in the Chinese city of Wuhan after being infected by the coronavirus. Wuhan has been at the centre of the virus outbreak.

The man took sick on December 31, with his condition worsening on January 4. He suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis and multiple organ failure, and died on January 15, AFP reported.

Cases in China and abroad

The first case of pneumonia was reported in December in Wuhan City. So far, 41 cases have been reported in the city. The first fatality was reported on January 9 in which a 61-year old man died in Wuhan.

A 61-year old Chinese woman was quarantined for the virus's symptoms in Thailand and was the first case outside China. The second case was reported in Japan, in which a Chinese man in his 30s, living in Kanagawa prefecture, was confirmed to have been infected by the virus.

The Wuhan health commission said late on Thursday that 12 people have recovered and have been discharged from the hospital but five others were in a serious condition.

Worldwide alert

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned about the spread of the virus and alerted hospitals worldwide. "The possibility of cases being identified in other countries was not unexpected and reinforces why WHO calls for on-going active monitoring and preparedness in other countries," the WHO said in a statement.

Ahead of next week's Lunar New Year holiday, in which hundreds of thousands of Chinese are expected to travel domestically and abroad, authorities in Asia have stepped up monitoring efforts at airports. On Wednesday, the US State Department also issued a health alert about travel to China's Wuhan region.

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause illness, ranging from the common cold to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). Little information is available about the virus's strain reported in Wuhan, but it is reported to be from the same family as the deadly SARS pathogen, that infected about 8,000 people in over 37 countries and claimed about 80 lives.

Though authorities say that a seafood market that was closed on January 1 is at the centre of the disease outbreak, cases of those who've not visited the market suggest that human-to-human transmission can't be ruled out.

This article was first published on January 17, 2020
Related topics : Coronavirus