Chinese authorities have closed off almost 20 cities in efforts to contain a new coronavirus that has killed more than 50 people in recent weeks, with cases confirmed in several countries in Asia and beyond.
On December 31, China alerted the World Health Organization (WHO) to several cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, a port city of 11 million people in the central Hubei province. The virus is unknown.
Several of those infected worked at the city’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which was shut down on January 1.
As health experts worked to identify the virus amid growing alarm, the number of infections exceeded 40.
On January 5, Chinese officials ruled out the possibility that this was a recurrence of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus – an illness that originated in China and killed more than 770 people worldwide in 2002-2003.
On January 7, they announced that they had identified a new virus, according to the WHO. The novel virus is from the coronavirus family, which includes SARS and the common cold, and is named 2019-nCoV. Coronaviruses are common and spread through coughing, sneezing, or touching an infected person.