China has reported its third death from a mysterious new virus and nearly 140 fresh cases as the disease spread to other parts of the country, including Beijing, raising concerns about more infections as millions begin trips for the Lunar New Year.
Medical experts are still struggling to understand the new strain of coronavirus but its connection with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome has caused alarm. SARS originated in southern China in 2002 before spreading to Hong Kong and elsewhere in the world, infecting thousands and leaving more than 800 people dead.
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Coronaviruses usually cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses, such as the common cold, but can also affect the lower respiratory tract, causing pneumonia or bronchitis.
In Wuhan, the city in central China where the new strain first emerged, 136 new cases were found over the past two days, the local health commission said, without giving details about the person who died.
Health authorities in Beijing’s Daxing district said two people who had travelled to Wuhan were treated for pneumonia linked to the virus and are in stable condition.
“They are taking it very seriously, but they are also at pains to tell the public that this is a controllable thing,” said Al Jazeera’s Katrina Yu in Beijing.
“They don’t want to cause panic.”