Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some of which cause the common cold. Others found in bats, camels and other animals have evolved into more severe illnesses.
Common symptoms include a runny nose, headache, cough and fever. Shortness of breath, chills and body aches are associated with more dangerous kinds of coronaviruses, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
China’s transport ministry says it plans additional measures to disinfect trains, planes and buses and prevent transmission of diseases during the 40-day travel rush centered on the Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, which falls this year on January 25. The period began Friday and runs through February 18.
“The emergence of the epidemic may cause panic among people, especially in areas where people are concentrated during the Spring Festival travel period,” the ministry’s chief engineer, Wang Yang, told reporters at a news conference Thursday.
“In order to further ensure the health of passengers, our ministry attaches great importance to the arrangements and deployment, and will focus on the disinfection monitoring and protection measures in areas with a large number of passenger travel volume, including transportation hubs, passenger stations and cargo hub plant stations,” Wang said.
Possible cases of the same illness have been reported in Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan involving recent travellers to Wuhan.
Health authorities elsewhere in China have yet to announce similar cases, despite the high population density around Wuhan and its role as a travel hub for central China.
University of Hong Kong disease expert Yuen Kwok-yung was quoted by the city’s official news agency as saying that the genetic makeup of the novel coronavirus was 80 per cent similar to SARS as it had been found in bats, civet cats and humans.
Yuen said that it was unclear whether the virus could further change to become more lethal, as the SARS virus had, but that Hong Kong had a robust system for detecting more severe problems among patients.
“So we have to take every measure and closely monitor the situation,” Yuen said, according to Radio Television Hong Kong.