Global researchers say that a new coronavirus, first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan last month, is similar in many aspects to the SARS virus that caused an outbreak in China and other parts of Asia in 2003.
"The possibility of identifying cases in other countries was not unexpected, and reinforces why World Health Organization requires active monitoring and preparation in progress in other countries", World Health Organization said in a statement.
Yesterday Chinese authorities said the virus may have been spread between family members, opening the possibility of human-to-human transmission.
The outbreak of the virus has been traced to Wuhan, where it affected several dozen people who had been to a major meat and seafood market. She has since been released from quarantine after tests showed she did not have the same kind of virus found in China.
"WHO reiterates that it is essential that investigations continue in China to identify the source of this outbreak and any animal reservoirs or intermediate hosts", it said.
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Since the initial report of cases in Wuhan on December 31, 41 cases with novel coronavirus infection have been preliminarily diagnosed, including one case that died with severe underlying medical conditions.
But since cases have cropped up without any exposure to the food market, there is reason to believe it can be transferred between humans. No additional cases have been detected since January 3 in China.
Japan has confirmed the first case of infection from the new coronavirus that been reported in China, the health ministry announced on Thursday. On Wednesday, the US State Department also issued a health alert about travel to China's Wuhan region. SARS originated in southern China in 2002 and infected more than 8,000 people in 37 countries before it was controlled.
However, as thousands prepare to travel for the lunar new year, Japan's health ministry advises those visiting or returning from Wuhan wear masks and promptly seek medical attention for any new symptoms.
Chinese officials are urging tourists to be extra cautious, especially if they are coming into the country for the Chinese New Year on January 25th. One of the patients has died.