Beijing – A mysterious form of pneumonia that has spread in China’s central metropolis of Wuhan may be caused by a new type of coronavirus.
State media CCTV reported on Thursday that a group of experts who analysed the genome sequence of the virus had reached the preliminary conclusion that it was a new type of coronavirus.
The same coronavirus has been identified in 15 patients.
Coronaviruses can infect animals and people, causing diseases ranging from the common cold to severe illnesses such as those caused by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus.
Medical authorities in Wuhan reported Sunday that 59 patients had been diagnosed with the mysterious form of pneumonia, of whom seven were in a critical condition.
By late Wednesday, eight patients were reported cured and discharged, according to CCTV.
The World Health Organisation said that several patients had worked at or visited the same seafood market in Wuhan when they fell ill in December.
Clinical symptoms included fever, difficulty breathing and lung lesions in some patients.
The disease raised alarm in places like Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines, where officials said they would set up quarantine zones or scan passengers from China for signs of the disease.
The U.S. Embassy in China issued a health alert instructing travellers to Wuhan to avoid animals, animal markets, uncooked meat and contact with sick people. (dpa/NAN)