The spread of China's mysterious fatal Wuhan virus is poised to get infinitely worse as the Chinese New Year travel rush begins
A deadly coronavirus known as the Wuhan virus, or 2019-nCoV, is gripping China. At least three people have died from the illness, which originated in a seafood market in Wuhan, a city in central China. The disease has since spread to at least two other Chinese cities and three other Asian countries. The spread could get much worse as hundreds of millions of people prepare to travel home for the Lunar New Year holiday this week and cram into crowded train stations and airports. Authorities around the world are ramping up border health screenings, but scientists and Chinese citizens say they're not enough. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
The spread of China's mysterious deadly coronavirus could accelerate rapidly as hundreds of millions prepare to travel home for the Lunar New Year holiday this week and as citizens bemoan the measures authorities are taking so far. The country is scrambling to halt the spread of 2019-nCoV, also known as the Wuhan virus. The infection originated in a seafood and meat market in Wuhan, a large city in central China. Three people in the city have died from the illness, local health authorities said. The total number of infections in the country was 217 as of Monday, according to Reuters. The virus has also spread to the Chinese cities of Beijing and Shenzhen, as well as South Korea, Thailand, and Japan. Not much is known about the Wuhan virus, apart its pneumonialike symptoms — like a fever and difficulty breathing— and identification as a strain of coronavirus infecting the nose, throat, or sinuses. It has been likened to severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. Experts have warned the virus could be further spread by human-to-human contact, though the World Health Organization has said animals appear to be the most likely source of the outbreak.
Health authorities across Asia are ramping up measures to spot and contain people carrying the disease, with medics in hazmat suits taking passengers' temperatures before planes can fly out from Wuhan and various airports increasing health screenings of people traveling from China. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is screening incoming passengers from China at airports in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, as are health authorities in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Tokyo. Chinese President Xi Jinping also called for increased focus on the disease, saying in a statement cited by state TV, "People's lives and health should be given top priority and the spread of the outbreak should be resolutely curbed," according to Reuters. Mask sales have also surged in Wuhan, with one employee at a Beike Drug Store branch telling Reuters demand has grown 10 times since the outbreak. (It's not entirely clear if masks provide effective protection against the disease.)
'Largest annual human migration in the world' But many citizens say the precautions are far from enough and fear the spread of the disease could get exponentially worse as the holiday season approaches. Hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens are preparing flock home for Lunar New Year — also known as Chinese New Year — this week, mostly via trains, planes, roads, and ferries, both domestically and internationally. The first day of the new year is on Saturday. Lunar New Year travels have been described as the "largest annual human migration in the world," and this year's traffic could get especially bad because the holiday overlaps with university winter holidays.
"It's highly likely we'll see this virus spread given that it appears there's some form of human-to-human transmission and given the scale of travel in the lead-up to Chinese New Year," Alexandra Phelan, a faculty research instructor in microbiology and immunology at Georgetown University, told CNBC Monday. "Looking further on, I think we're likely to have cases around China, and also there will likely be cases in other countries as people travel." Jeremy Farrar, a specialist in infectious-disease epidemics at the Wellcome Trust health charity, told Reuters: "There is more to come from this outbreak." Last week, scientists from Imperial College London said the disease may have infected more than 1,700 people already, more than 35 times the official total at the time.
'There must be no concealment' Though authorities have vowed to ramp up health screenings, such procedures appear to be still lacking in many major travel hubs. There were no infrared-temperature cameras to detect elevated body temperatures at the busy Beijing West railway station, and only half of the people there were wearing face masks, Reuters reported. Just having thermal scanners isn't enough, either. Professor Allen Cheng, an infectious-diseases physician at Australia's Monash University, said: "Evidence suggests that entry screening (e.g. thermal scanners) aren't very effective at identifying people with new viruses. "This is because border screening isn't very sensitive (people with infection don't always have a fever when they pass the scanner) and aren't specific (most people with a fever will have another infection, like influenza)."
Cheng added that instead, people entering countries should be told what to look out for and where to find medical help. But many people in China have complained of a lack of such guidance. One person wrote on the popular microblogging platform Weibo: "I have to search on Weibo by myself for all the new developments — no notice from schools, companies or the compound where I live," according to Reuters. "So ignorant, so fearless, so arrogant," another person said, according to the news agency.
Even the Global Times, a state-run tabloid that effectively functions as a Communist Party mouthpiece, called on the government to increase transparency about the virus. It said in a Sunday opinion piece: "All relevant information must be notified to the public, and there must be no concealment. Concealment would be a serious blow to the government's credibility and might trigger greater social panic."
Read more: A video of medics in hazmat suits scanning plane passengers for China's mysterious Wuhan virus is stoking fears of a global epidemic People in China will make 3 billion trips in the next 40 days to celebrate Lunar New Year, the world's largest annual human migration A mysterious and deadly virus from China could have infected 35 times more people than official totals, scientists warn A mysterious virus in China is a reminder that the world isn't ready for a pandemic. Bill Gates says we should prepare for a deadly outbreak as we do for war. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: How to find water when you're stuck in the desert
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This map shows where China's mysterious, deadly Wuhan coronavirus has spread as the death toll rises to 41
A coronavirus outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China, has killed 41 people and infected more than...A coronavirus outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China, has killed 41 people and infected more than 1,100. Cases have been reported in nine other countries. The map below shows where the virus has spread. The virus' further spread is likely as millions of people travel for the Chinese New Year celebrations. Visit Business Insider's home page for more stories. A mysterious coronavirus has killed 41 people in China — a count that has risen sharply since the first death was reported on January 11. As of Friday, there are more than 1,100 confirmed cases. Cases have been reported in at least nine other countries, including the US. The virus first emerged at the end of December in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, which is home to 11 million people. This map shows where cases have been confirmed so far: The number of infected people has risen consistently over the last several days. Here is the breakdown as of Friday: Hubei Province (home of Wuhan), China: 549 cases Guangdong province, China: 53 cases Zhejiang province, China: 43 cases Beijing, China: 36 cases Shanghai, China: 20 cases Chongqing City, China: 27 cases Sichuan Province, China: 25 cases Tianjin, China: 8 cases Jiangxi, China: 18 cases Shandong Province, China: 15 cases Yunnan Province, China: 2 cases Henan Province, China: 9 cases Hunan Province, China: 24 cases Guangxi Province, China: 23 cases Shanxi Province, China: 1 case Guizhou Province, China: 3 cases Fujian Province, China: 10 cases Hainan Province, China: 8 cases Hebei Province, China: 2 cases Xinjiang Autonomous Region: 2 cases Shaanxi Province: 5 cases Heilongjiang Province: 4 cases Anhui Province: 15 cases Ningxia Province: 2 cases Gansu Province: 2 cases Liaoning Province: 4 cases Jiangsu Province: 9 cases Jilin Province: 3 cases Hong Kong: 2 cases Thailand: 5 cases Taiwan: 3 cases Macau: 2 cases South Korea: 2 cases Japan: 2 cases Vietnam: 2 cases Singapore: 3 cases United States: 2 cases Nepal: 1 case France: 3 cases The figures are being regularly updated as individual regions report separately from the National Health Commission. Some experts believe that the number of those infected could be higher: As of Thursday, academics from Imperial College London estimated that the true number of infected people might be between 4,000 and 9,700. Health authorities in Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, the US, the UK, and other countries are screening passengers at airports. The virus, called 2019-nCoV, is a novel strain of coronavirus — which can infect the nose, throat, and sinuses — that had not been seen in humans before. Fears that the virus could spread further are high, since hundreds of millions of Chinese people plan to travel for the weeks-long Chinese New Year celebration. At least 12 cities, including Wuhan, have been put on lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus. Beijing canceled its New Year celebrations on Thursday. Join the conversation about this story »
The American Airlines flight attendant union is calling on US airlines to step up precautions for the deadly Wuhan coronavirus
The head of the American Airlines flight attendant union called on US airlines to increase precautions...The head of the American Airlines flight attendant union called on US airlines to increase precautions over the deadly coronavrius outbreak in Wuhan, China. More than 630 people have been infected by the mysterious virus, and 18 have died. Airlines have said they are coordinating with US health officials. American said it is taking steps to communicate the risks, and hand out sanitizing wipes on flights to China. Delta said it would offer "flexibility" to customers booked to travel to Wuhan. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. The head of American Airlines' flight attendants union released on Thursday urged US airlines to buckle down and take "immediate emergency measures" to protect flight crews from the deadly coronavirus outbreak. "The health of our crew members and passengers is a top priority for us and we refuse to compromise their health or safety in any way," Lori Bassani, the president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), said in a statement. "I am urging American Airlines and all airlines to do everything humanly possible to contain the outbreak and minimize any chance of exposure." According to the APFA, measures could include "including providing crew members the latest information regarding the 2019-nCoV outbreak, identifying the signs and symptoms of illness in oneself and others, and practical procedures to manage potentially ill persons." The coronavirus outbreak, which originated in Wuhan, China, has killed 18 people and infected more than 630. The virus is suspected to have initially jumped from animals to humans at a seafood market. Scientists have since confirmed it can spread from human to human. Most cases are in China, around Wuhan specifically, but cases have been confirmed in at least eight other countries: Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, and the US. Four people in Scotland are being tested for the virus. US health officials began screening incoming passengers from Wuhan at airports last week. However, the screening did not prevent infected passengers from getting onto planes in the first place, potentially spreading the virus. Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways said on Thursday that it would allow cabin crew to wear medical masks while working on flights to or from mainland China, according to Channel News Asia. Airports in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, and South Korea are also screening passengers. The entire city of Wuhan has been quarantined by the Chinese government as officials race to contain the spread of the virus. Five other cities have also been placed under quarantine orders — about 23 million people are impacted. The virus is marked by fevers and pneumonia-like symptoms. Public health officials are particularly concerned due to the timing of the outbreak coinciding with the busy Lunar New Year travel period. Read more about the Wuhan virus: What you need to know about China's Wuhan coronavirus and how it could affect you Everything we know about the mysterious, deadly Wuhan virus sweeping across China A mysterious virus in China is a reminder that the world isn't ready for a pandemic. Bill Gates says we should prepare for a deadly outbreak as we do for war. The spread of China's mysterious fatal Wuhan virus is poised to get infinitely worse as the Chinese New Year travel rush begins A video of medics in hazmat suits scanning plane passengers for China's mysterious Wuhan virus is stoking fears of a pandemic SEE ALSO: Everything we know about the mysterious, deadly Wuhan virus sweeping across China Join the conversation about this story »
Residents in Wuhan, Ezhou and Huanggang hoard supplies and isolate themselves at homeA sense of panic...Residents in Wuhan, Ezhou and Huanggang hoard supplies and isolate themselves at homeA sense of panic has spread in China as three cities accounting for an area of 20 million people were put on lockdown in an attempt to contain a deadly virus.On Thursday, authorities banned transport links from Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, as well as the nearby central Chinese cities of Huanggang and Ezhou, suspending buses, subways, ferries and shutting the airport and train stations to outgoing passengers. Continue reading...