New coronavirus linked to wildlife: Chinese official


Taipei, Jan. 22 (CNA) A new type of coronavirus that has killed nine people and infected more than 440, mainly in China, is believed to have jumped to humans from wild animals sold at a market in Wuhan City, a Chinese health official said Wednesday in Beijing.

Gao Fu (高福), the director-general of China‘s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a news briefing that the virus, now known as 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), has already mutated and most likely will continue to do so as it spreads.

The transmission to humans is believed to have started with wildlife sold at Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market in Wuhan, eastern China, Gao said.

However, a number of cluster infections in Wuhan indicated that the 2019-nCoV has adapted, mutated and is now being spread by humans, he said.

On the question of super-spreaders — highly contagious virus carriers — Gao said there were no indications of such hosts.

At the press conference, Li Bin (李彬), deputy head of China‘s National Health Commission, said that there was evidence of “respiratory transmission” of the virus, meaning it was being spread indirectly from person to person via respiratory droplets propelled into the air by sneezing and coughing.

As of Tuesday, China had confirmed 440 cases of 2019-nCoV and nine deaths, while a few cases have also been reported in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, the United States and Taiwan.

In Taiwan, the single case was a Taiwanese woman who recently returned from Wuhan, where she works.

On arrival at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport on Tuesday, she told quarantine officers that she had a cough and fever, and she was immediately taken to hospital, where she tested positive for the 2019-nCoV.

The Taiwan government has since stepped up its epidemic prevention efforts, raising its travel alert for Wuhan to the highest level and advising travel agencies to cancel all trips between Taiwan and Wuhan.

(By Joseph Yeh)

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