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Global Times

New virus identified as cause of Wuhan pneumonia

Global Times

By Leng Shumei and Zhang Hui Source:Global Times Published: 2020/1/9 9:48:19

Pneumonia far less serious than SARS, MERS: scientists

Chinese experts identified a new type of coronavirus as the cause of pneumonia that has hospitalized more than 50 people in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province.

Experts indentified the new virus on Tuesday and have obtained its genome sequence, the China Central Television (CCTV) reported Thursday.

They will continue studying the virus' etiology, epidemiology and clinical features, the report said.

Experts noted that the virus' genome and nucleic acid does not take long to be identified, but requires weeks to separate the virus and identify its pathogenicity and years to develop medicine and vaccine against it.

Liu Youning, a professor of epidemiology and respiratory medicine at the Chinese PLA General Hospital, told the Global Times on Thursday that the coronavirus found in Wuhan appears to be far less serious than the virus that caused the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) or the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

Liu said it is urgent to discover how the virus is transmitted as China's Spring Festival travel rush approaches.

"A next step is to determine its exact mode of transmission," but so far, there is no clear sign of human-to-human transmission as the Wuhan health authority had announced.

"This could be due to good protective measures, or that the disease itself is not contagious," Liu said.

This year's Spring Festival travel rush begins on Friday. A total of 3 billion trips are estimated to be made during the 40-day rush, reports said.

Precautionary measures in populated areas will be enhanced to prevent the spread of the virus during the period, officials said.

Eight of the hospitalized patients previously diagnosed with pneumonia caused by the new virus in Wuhan have been discharged, media reported on Wednesday.

Local governments would return treatment expenses to these patients, Chinese financial news outlet Caixin reported on Thursday, citing the patients' families.

Meanwhile, 48 suspicious cases of pneumonia have been found in Hong Kong and one in South Korea as of Thursday. Twenty-one of the suspicious patients in Hong Kong have been discharged, according to the local hospital authority.

Coronaviruses usually impact the respiratory system and intestines. The virus' surface looks like a crown and has many orderly small bulges on its surface. They can transmit among humans and some animals like pigs, birds and rats.

Six coronaviruses are known to infect people, including the virus that causes SARS and MERS, reports said.

China has set up systems to prevent epidemics based on a wealth of experiences in dealing with SARS in 2003.

A total of 8,437 SARS cases were reported all around the world from November 1, 2002 to July 11, 2003, with 813 of the patients dead, the World Health Organization (WHO) website said.

No new case of SARS has been reported since 2004, according to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Besides, since September 2012, the WHO has notified 2,458 MERS cases, which killed 848 people and affected 27 countries.

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