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WHO Concerned about Possible New Coronavirus in China

A vendor gives out copies of newspaper with a headlines of "Wuhan break out a new type of coronavirus, Hong Kong prevent SARS repeat" at a street in Hong Kong, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
WHO Concerned about Possible New Coronavirus in China
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Chinese officials and the World Health Organization (WHO) are trying to contain an outbreak of pneumonia in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

Health experts suspect that the pneumonia cases could be linked to a new form of coronavirus. The virus is blamed for at least one death.

The WHO has said there may have been limited human-to-human transmission of the virus within families.

Chinese officials say a seafood market in Wuhan is thought to be at the center of the outbreak. Officials said one woman may have gotten the virus from her husband, who worked at the market. The two are among 41 people shown to have pneumonia thought to be caused by the virus.

Officials said some of the sick have denied visiting the market.

The outbreak comes two weeks before the start of the Lunar New Year holiday, when many of China’s 1.4 billion people will be traveling to their hometowns or overseas.

WHO and Chinese officials are taking steps to ensure the disease does not spread.

The officials in Wuhan confirmed that Thailand has quarantined a Chinese woman. It is the first case of the mystery strain of coronavirus to be found outside of China. The woman is said to have come from Wuhan.

This undated handout picture courtesy of the British Health Protection Agency shows the Coronavirus seen under an electron miscroscope
This undated handout picture courtesy of the British Health Protection Agency shows the Coronavirus seen under an electron miscroscope

The coronavirus is from a family of viruses that can cause both the common cold and more serious diseases.

On Wednesday, a Hong Kong health official told reporters that the threat of human-to-human transmission remains low. Chuang Shuk-kwan said that doctors and hundreds of other people have been in close contact with infected individuals and have not been infected themselves. She spoke to reporters after returning from a visit to Wuhan.

With the Lunar New Year set to begin on January 25, the WHO called on Thai officials and the public to be on guard against the virus. Thai health officials announced Wednesday they were increasing security at airports.

The outbreak in Wuhan has made some in China think of SARS, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome. SARS is a coronavirus that first struck southern China in late 2002. It then spread to more than 24 countries, killing nearly 800 people.

The United States released a warning about the latest outbreak for American citizens in China.

I’m Susan Shand.

The Associated Press and The Reuters News Agency reported this story. Susan Shand adapted the reports for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

outbreak – n. a sudden rise in the number of cases of a disease; a sudden or violent increase in activity

transmission – n. the act or process by which something is spread or passed from one person or thing to another

quarantine – n. a period of time during which a person or animal that has a disease or that might have a disease is kept away from others to prevent the disease from spreading

respiratory – adj. of or relating to breathing or the organs of the body that are used in breathing

syndrome – n. a group of conditions which often are found at the same time