The new Wuhan virus outbreak has killed a third person and spread to more mainland cities and a third country, fuelling fears of a major health threat as millions of people begin travelling for the Lunar New Year.
The new coronavirus strain has caused alarm because of its connection to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars), which killed more than 770 people in 2003.
Wuhan has 11 million inhabitants and serves as a major transport hub, including during the annual Lunar New Year holiday which begins later this week and sees hundreds of millions of people travel across the country to visit family.
The total number of people diagnosed with the virus has risen to 218, as Shanghai confirmed its first case on Monday and 136 new cases were found over the weekend in Wuhan, 15 in Guangdong province and five in Beijing, according to CCTV. A third patient in Wuhan has died.
South Korea on Monday reported its first case – a 35-year-old woman who flew in from Wuhan. Thailand and Japan have previously confirmed three cases – all of whom had visited the Chinese city.
No human-to-human transmission has been confirmed so far, but authorities have not ruled out the possibility.
"Experts believe that the current epidemic situation can still be controlled," the National Health Commission said on Sunday.
But the commission acknowledged that the source of the coronavirus and its mode of transmission have yet to be known.
The virus did not slow down the annual holiday travel rush, though some travellers wore masks at crowded railway stations in Beijing and Shanghai.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Twitter on Monday that "an animal source seems the most likely primary source" with "some limited human-to-human transmission occurring between close contacts".
It said the new cases in China were the result of "increased searching and testing for (the virus) among people sick with respiratory illness".
Wuhan authorities said they have installed infrared thermometers at airports, railway stations and coach stations across the city. Passengers with fevers were being registered, given masks and taken to medical institutions.
State TV footage aired on Monday showed medical staff working inside an isolation ward at a Wuhan hospital in full-body suits.
Chinese state media moved to calm the mood as discussion about the coronavirus spreading to other Chinese cities swelled on social media.
Nationalist tabloid Global Times called for better handling of the new virus than that of the 2003 Sars outbreak.
The foreign ministry said on Monday that Beijing had informed the WHO and other countries about the virus "in a timely manner". (AFP)
Jump in Wuhan flu cases fuel fears of major outbreak
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