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A mystery virus with serious symptoms is spreading in China just weeks before lunar new year

China and WHO brace for another epidemic.

A mystery virus with serious symptoms is spreading in China just weeks before lunar new year
[Photo: Drew Hays/Unsplash]

Uh-oh. A new, potent form of viral pneumonia has sickened 59 people in China with high fevers, lung lesions, and difficulty breathing. All have been quarantined, and seven are in critical condition. This comes weeks before mass travel for the Chinese lunar new year on January 25.

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WHO calls the outbreak “pneumonia of unknown etiology”—which is epidemiologist speak for we don’t know what the hell this is. The outbreak has grown from 27 patients in late December, and cases have been traced to the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, suggesting that the pathogen jumped from animals to humans. The market has been shut down, and Hong Kong has hospitalized 30 people who had recently traveled to Wuhan. The good news: so far, it does not seem to be transmitted person-to-person.

China is not known for open communication about epidemics. SARS was not reported to WHO for months and killed approximately 800 people in 2002 and 2003 while spreading to dozens of countries. This week, China seems to be more readily releasing information, though China continues to be China: The hashtag #WuhanSARS has been blocked by censors.

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