- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 9, 2020

Chinese scientists have possibly identified the cause behind a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has sickened dozens as a new coronavirus, a state broadcaster reported Thursday.

The researchers used a sample from one patient to conduct gene sequencing of the virus and were able to preliminary identify a novel virus, Gauden Galea, a World Health Organization representative to China, said in a written statement.

They reportedly discovered the new coronavirus in 15 of 57 patients with the illness in the mainland city of Wuhan.

The pneumonia outbreak has sent 59 people to the hospital in Wuhan. As of Sunday, seven patients were in critical condition, while others were in stable condition.

Eight patients were discharged Wednesday from the hospital, according to Xinhua Net.

Coronaviruses can cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to severe respiratory diseases such as SARS. They can spread through coughing, sneezing or contact with an infected person. They can infect animals and people.

Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan have reported possible cases of the same pneumonia illness involving people who recently traveled to Wuhan.

As of Thursday, Hong Kong hospitals reported 48 suspected cases of respiratory illness linked to visits to the central Chinese city.

Twenty-five patients have been discharged, while others still in the hospital are in stable condition, Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority said Thursday.

South Korea reported its first possible case this week, according to The Associated Press. Health officials placed a 36-year-old Chinese woman under isolated treatment over concerns that she brought back the viral pneumonia following two business trips to China last month.

Taiwanese authorities have quarantined a patient who became sick with flu symptoms Monday, about two weeks after her return from a trip to Wuhan.

The outbreak had raised concerns about the highly contagious SARS virus, which killed hundreds of people in 2002 and 2003, before health officials ruled it out as the cause.

The pneumonia cases have been linked to the Wuhan South China Seafood City, also called the Hua Nan Seafood Market. The market closed Jan. 1 for cleaning and disinfection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week advised those traveling to Wuhan to avoid animals and sick people and to wash their hands often. Symptoms of the illness include fever and difficulty breathing.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

• Shen Wu Tan can be reached at stan@washingtontimes.com.

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