'Mystery Illness' Hits City

So far, 59 people in Wuhan have been diagnosed with the respiratory illness
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 5, 2020 1:30 PM CST
'Mystery Illness' Hits City
A bird's eye view of the city of Wuhan, China.   (Getty Images)

Looks like the Chinese city of Wuhan is ground zero for a mystery illness—but officials say it isn't a reemergence of the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic that originated in China and killed over 700 people, the Guardian reports. So far, 59 people have been diagnosed with the viral pneumonia, including seven in critical condition. Several were stallholders at a suburban seafood market that also sold pheasants, snakes, birds, and the organs of rabbits and other animals, per the South China Morning Post. The respiratory illness has apparently spread to Hong Kong—roughly four hours away by high-speed train—where 15 patients are being treated and officials have increased airport screening for fever among passengers.

Little else is known, but a Wuhan health commission says the most typical symptoms are shortness of breath, fever, and occasionally lung infection. The commission adds that "influenza, avian influenza, adenovirus infection and other common respiratory diseases" are off the list, per LiveScience, and World Health Organization rep says "severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus is not yet confirmed or excluded as the cause of the outbreak." What makes this news? Horrible memories of SARS—severe acute respiratory syndrome—which was transmitted person-to-person and infected over 8,000 people in 26 countries. "If it were SARS, we are experienced in managing it," says a medical professor in China. "But if it is a new strain, then we should pay attention." (More illness stories.)

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