China’s health officials continue to be stumped as the newly-discovered coronavirus is spreading rapidly, with 291 new cases confirmed on Monday. The country’s National Health Commission has established that the virus is transmitted by human-to-human contact, NBC News has reported.
This discovery comes as China prepares for its Lunar New Year celebration. The holiday begins Saturday and will bring many people into close contact. According to the Chinese state-run press agency, Xinhuanet, 400 million Chinese are expected to travel, with 7 million having booked trips to 90 different countries and regions. Officials fear the extensive travel will result in the disease becoming widespread.
The coronavirus is a respiratory illness from the same virus family as SARS. Thus far, it has not been as deadly as the previous virus. Coronavirus was first discovered in Wuhan and — at first — wasn’t believed to be spread by person-to-person contact. However, the disease is spreading rapidly and it was reported that 15 of China’s healthcare workers had contracted the virus, leading to the belief that it only needs human contact to spread.
As The Inquisitr previously reported, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has begun screening travelers at New York’s Kennedy International Airport, as well as at San Francisco and Los Angeles International Airports. To date, 100 CDC experts have been deployed to the three airports, who began checks over the weekend. During the screenings, body temperatures are taken by thermal scanners and travelers are asked a series of questions. Those displaying any signs of illness will be further evaluated. There have been no travel restrictions placed on China or any other country so far.
Many Chinese citizens are wearing medical masks for protection as fears in the country grow. Health officials expect the virus to spread throughout other areas of China and possibly to other parts of the world.
The World Health Organization (WHO) believes the virus outbreak originated from an animal, although China’s National Health Commission cautions that the source remains unknown. WHO will hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday to determine if the virus warrants declaring an international health emergency.
The new virus outbreak has raised concerns that it could be similar to the 2002 SARS outbreak that infected thousands and killed 774 people worldwide. Like SARS, the newest coronavirus is hitting the elderly more than any other demographic, although a 10-year-old boy is reported to be ill with the virus as well.
The SARS virus was detrimental to China’s economy and officials are concerned the new mystery virus will have the same economic impact. Officials have also expressed concern for the health and wellbeing of Chinese citizens.