Surge of infections in China by Wuhan coronavirus | similar to SARS

Confirmed a third deceased and the number of infections reaches 220. passengers examined for symptoms of coronavirus on a local flight from Wuhan.

Jin Yintan Wuhan hospital medical staff transfers one of the affected patients.
Jin Yintan Wuhan hospital medical staff transfers one of the affected patients.

Concern is growing in and around China. On the eve of the largest annual global migration, the Lunar New Year, the mysterious new coronavirus detected five weeks ago in the Chinese city of Wuhan is advancing relentlessly through the rest of the country, calling into question the effectiveness of control measures taken to date.

The latest data from Wuhan does not look very promising. 

Yesterday, the Chinese National Health Commission reported a third death in Wuhan. 

Furthermore, since the weekend, the number of cases detected has tripled to around 220, including 5 in Beijing, 14 in the southern province of Canton and 1 more in Shanghai, the first in the country outside the focus city of the outbreak.

The virus has even crossed borders, with two infected in Thailand, one in Japan and one in South Korea. 

The symptoms of all of them are similar to those of pneumonia: dry cough, fever and breathing difficulties.

The Wuhan virus moving steadily forward.

Chinese authorities tighten control measures in stations and airports.
Initially, most of those affected were sellers and customers at the local market in Wuhan, where fresh fish and seafood were dispatched in addition to other live animals.

However, the appearance of new cases weeks after the market was closed and disinfected suggests that there may be other outbreaks in the city or even human-to-human transmission, a possibility that has not yet been proven but cannot be excluded. 

The World Health Organization called for caution.

"Not enough is known to draw definitive conclusions about how it is transmitted, the clinical characteristics of the disease, the degree of spread or its origin, which remains unknown," they said in a statement.

However, they noted that an animal appears to be the most likely primary source of the new outbreak, with some limited transmissions between humans who have been in close contact.

Wuhan virus outbreak in China.
Wuhan virus outbreak in China.

Coronavirus mortality rates.

So far, the new coronavirus has not shown mortality rates like those of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the epidemic of atypical pneumonia that originated in China and infected more than 8,000 people and killed some 770 between 2002 and 2003. 

However, a study by the Infectious Disease Analysis Center at Imperial College London said Friday that the number of infections in Wuhan would have been greatly underestimated. 

"The detection of three cases outside China is worrying," they said at the time. 

According to their estimates, based on flight data, population and the time it takes an infected person to seek help, "there could be over 1,700 cases in Wuhan so far," they said.

Given this situation, both China an countries in the region have taken extreme security measures at airports and train stations. 

On Chinese social networks, a video showing a team of medical personnel wearing protective gear checking, one by one, the body temperature of passengers on a plane leaving Wuhan went viral yesterday. 

Governments such as Hong Kong, Thailand and Singapore are subjecting newcomers from China to thermal checks, a measure also taken by the US airports of San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles.

VIDEO: Passengers screened for coronavirus symptoms on a domestic flight out of Wuhan.

Lunar New Year

The main concern is now the celebration of the lunar New Year on January 25, a date for which more than 400 million Chinese are expected to travel inside the country or abroad and that can facilitate the transmission of the coronavirus.

"The life and health of people must have the highest priority and the spread of the outbreak must be resolved," the country's president, Xi Jinping, asked yesterday to address the issue in public for the first time.