Wuhan flu outbreak may be due to new virus from Sars family
LONDON/BEIJING : A cluster of more than 50 pneumonia cases in China's central city of Wuhan may be due to a newly emerging member of the family of viruses that caused the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome outbreaks.
The World Health Organisation said while it needed more comprehensive information to confirm precisely the type of pathogen causing the infection, a new coronavirus was a possibility. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause infections ranging from the common cold to Sars.
Yesterday, China's official Xinhua news agency said preliminary lab results conducted by a team of experts showed a new type of coronavirus caused the outbreak that began last month.
Academic Xu Jianguo at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, who led the team, told Xinhua that tests on samples from patients found 15 positive results of the new coronavirus.
Fifty-nine cases of the pneumonia have been reported as of Sunday.
"It may take years for researchers to develop medicines and vaccines," the report said.
The outbreak comes ahead of the Chinese New Year holidays, when many of China's 1.4 billion people will be travelling.
Beijing expects passengers to make 440 million rail trips and another 79 million plane trips, officials said yesterday.
Mr Wang Yang, the Chinese Transport Ministry's chief engineer, said that the authorities will step up efforts to prevent the pneumonia outbreak from spreading further during the holiday period, including ensuring proper disinfection in major public transportation hubs. - REUTERS