China virus deaths hit 17, heightening global alarm

Updated January 22, 2020

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People travelling for the Lunar New Year wear protective masks as they head to the departure area at the Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing on January 22. — AFP
People travelling for the Lunar New Year wear protective masks as they head to the departure area at the Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing on January 22. — AFP

The number of reported deaths from the new strain of coronavirus that has gripped China rose to 17 on Wednesday with more than 540 cases confirmed.

The previously unknown, flu-like coronavirus strain is believed to have emerged from an animal market in central Wuhan city, with cases now detected as far away as the United States.

Pakistan put on alert

In Pakistan, the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS), Regulations and Coordination on Wednesday alerted the Disease Surveillance Division and Central Health Establishment to the possible spread of the coronavirus.

According to the NHS, the notification has been issued in response to the international alert on the virus, which has spread from seafood and animals to humans.

Symptoms of the deadly virus range from fever, to coughing and difficulty breathing.

NHS has decided to establish coronavirus prevention counters at all airports. It has also been advised that people who recently visited China should also be tested for presence of the virus.

WHO sounds alarm

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday that there may have been limited human-to-human transmission of the new coronavirus in China within families, and it is possible there could be a wider outbreak.

The organisation has given guidance to hospitals worldwide about infection prevention and control in case the new virus spreads. There is no specific treatment for the new virus, but anti-virals are being considered and could be “re-purposed”, said Maria Van Kerkhove, acting head of WHO’s emerging diseases unit.

With the Chinese New Year approaching on January 25, when many Chinese tourists visit Thailand, the WHO called on Thai authorities, the public and holidaymakers to be on alert.