The World Health Organisation will hold a key committee meeting on Wednesday on whether to declare the Wuhan virus outbreak an international public health emergency - a rare move only used for the gravest epidemics.
Just a few days ago, the WHO said it did not see a need for an emergency meeting - but China has since confirmed human-to-human transmission of the Sars-like coronavirus and more outbreaks across the country.
More than 200 people have now been diagnosed with the virus, as Beijing and Shanghai confirmed their first cases and more than a dozen more emerged in Guangdong province.
South Korea has also reported its first case, following two in Thailand and one in Japan.
The WHO said its emergency committee would determine whether the new coronavirus strain represents "a public health emergency of international concern".
In WHO parlance, that means an "extraordinary event" in which an outbreak constitutes "a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease" and requires a vigorous international response.
The agency has only used the label a handful of times previously, including during the H1N1, or swine flu, pandemic of 2009, and the Ebola epidemic that devastated parts of West Africa from 2014 to 2016. (AFP)
WHO may declare global emergency over Wuhan virus
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