Mysterious SARS-like virus spreads beyond China

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A new virus from the same family as the deadly SARS disease has spread beyond China’s borders for the first time with an emerging case in Thailand, the UN and Thai officials said earlier this week.

Thai doctors diagnosed a Chinese traveler with mild pneumonia on January 8 and then confirmed that it was caused by the so-called new coronavirus, which has already resulted in 41 cases similar to pneumonia and a death in China.

The outbreak caused alarm due to the link with SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed 349 people in mainland China and another 299 in Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that the outbreak in Wuhan City was caused by a previously unknown type of coronavirus, a large family that ranges from the common cold to more serious diseases such as SARS. “Laboratory tests subsequently confirmed that the new coronavirus was the cause,” WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told AFP in an email, referring to the case in Thailand. WHO said it could soon organize an emergency meeting on the spread of the new virus.

Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said Monday to reporters in Bangkok that a 61-year-old Chinese woman who had traveled from Wuhan “was infected with the virus from outside Thailand.” Thai health officials said on Monday they were recovering. Authorities in Wuhan said a seafood market in the city was the center of the outbreak. It was closed on January 1. So far there are no indications of transmission of the virus from person to person.

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