About 450 cases of a new viral respiratory illness have been confirmed in China and elsewhere since an outbreak began last month in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Nine people have died. Scientists have identified the illness as a new kind of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some of which cause the common cold. Others have evolved into more severe illnesses, such as SARS and MERS, although so far the new virus does not appear to be nearly as deadly or contagious.
WHAT’S NEW TODAY
— The number of confirmed cases in China jumped to 440 and three more patients died, raising the death toll to nine. Chinese health officials held a news conference to urge people in Wuhan not to leave the city and to avoid crowds.
— North Korea banned foreign tourists to guard against the entry of the virus, tour operators said. Most tourists to North Korea are Chinese or others who travel from China on organized tours. North Korea closed its borders in 2003 during the SARS scare.
— The World Health Organization is convening a meeting of independent experts to advise it on whether to declare the outbreak a global health crisis. Previous emergencies have been declared for epidemics including the ongoing Ebola outbreak in Congo and the Zika virus in the Americas in 2016. Some experts said the conditions for declaring a global emergency have been met.
— A Wuhan official said most of the 15 medical workers in the city who were infected caught it from a patient undergoing brain surgery who had contracted the coronavirus. The infection of so many hospital staff raised worries of more “super-spreaders” who could transmit the disease more widely.