CDC confirms second U.S. case of Wuhan coronavirus

(Reuters) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday confirmed that a second case of Wuhan coronavirus in the United States had been detected in Chicago, and said as many as 63 people were being monitored as the virus spreads around the globe.

The infected person had traveled to Wuhan, China recently. The woman, 60, had not taken public transportation and was not ill when she traveled, Chicago health authorities said on a conference call.

Of the 63 people under investigation from 22 states, 11 tested negative, CDC said in a conference call with reporters.

The newly discovered virus has killed 26 people and infected more than 800, but most of the cases and all of the deaths so far have been in China, where officials have imposed restrictions on travel and public gatherings.

The CDC said it believes the immediate threat to U.S. residents remains low.

The World Health Organization on Thursday declared the virus an “emergency in China”, but stopped short of declaring it a global health emergency.

(Reporting by Saumya Sibi Joseph in Bengaluru and Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)

16 people monitored for contact with U.S. coronavirus victim

(Reuters) – At least 16 people had close contact with a Washington state man diagnosed as the first U.S. case of the coronavirus and are being monitored for the illness that has killed 17 people in China and sickened hundreds more, local officials said.

The patient, a 30-year-old man, is doing well and may soon be released from an Everett, Washington hospital, officials told press conferences.

None of the people who were in close contact with the patient have developed the illness, said Chris Spitters, health officer for the Snohomish Health District.

“The risk to the general public remains low,” Spitters said, adding that he would not be surprised if the number of people believed to have been in close contact with the man increased.

The man fell ill over the weekend after traveling to Wuhan, China, his hometown, in November and December and was diagnosed with coronavirus on Monday.

The virus, which causes respiratory symptoms similar to a cold or flu, has been linked to a seafood market in Wuhan, the largest city in central China with a population of about 11 million. That market has since been shut down.

(Reporting by Andrew Hay in New Mexico; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

China orders ‘unprecedented’ lockdown of two cities at virus epicenter

China orders ‘unprecedented’ lockdown of two cities at virus epicenter
By Yawen Chen and Se Young Lee

BEIJING (Reuters) – China on Thursday locked down two cities at the epicenter of a coronavirus outbreak that has killed 17 people and infected nearly 600, as health authorities around the world took action to prevent a global pandemic.

Health officials fear the transmission rate will accelerate as hundreds of millions of Chinese travel at home and abroad during week-long holidays for the Lunar New Year, which begins on Saturday.

The previously unknown virus strain is believed to have emerged late last year from illegally traded wildlife at an animal market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

Most transport in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, was suspended on Thursday morning and people were told not to leave. Hours later, neighboring Huanggang, a city of about 7 million people, announced a similar lockdown.

“The lockdown of 11 million people is unprecedented in public health history, so it is certainly not a recommendation the WHO has made,” Gauden Galea, the World Health Organization’s representative in Beijing, told Reuters.

Other cities were also taking steps to restrict movement and contact. Nearby Ezhou shut its train stations. The capital Beijing canceled major public events, including two well-known Lunar New Year temple fairs, the state-run Beijing News said.

Airports worldwide were screening passengers arriving from China.

There is no vaccine for the virus, which can spread through respiratory transmission. Symptoms include fever, difficulty in breathing and cough, similar to many other respiratory illnesses.

Preliminary research suggested it was passed on to humans from snakes, but government medical adviser Zhong Nanshan has also identified badgers and rats as possible sources.

WHO MEETING

The WHO has said it will decide on Thursday whether to declare the outbreak a global health emergency, which would step up the international response.

If it does so, it will be the sixth international public health emergency to be declared in the last decade. A WHO news conference is expected some time after 1800 GMT.

Chinese authorities gave no new details on the numbers of virus infections but it has been reported in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Of eight known cases worldwide, Thailand has confirmed four, while Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States have reported one each.

Authorities had confirmed 571 cases and 17 deaths by the end of Wednesday, China’s National Health Commission said. Earlier, it said another 393 suspected cases had been reported.

In a report on Wednesday, Imperial College London said it estimated a total of 4,000 cases of the coronavirus in Wuhan alone as of Jan. 18, an infection rate based on the number of cases reported in China and elsewhere.

Wuhan shut down all urban transport networks and suspended outgoing flights from 10 a.m. (0200 GMT). Domestic media said some airlines were operating after the deadline, however.

Wuhan’s Hankou rail station was nearly deserted, with gates blocked, state broadcasts showed. The government urged citizens not to leave the city.

State media reported highway toll booths around Wuhan were closing down, which would effectively cut off road exits. Guards were patrolling highways, one resident told Reuters.

As the city slipped into isolation, residents thronged into hospitals for checks and scrambled for supplies, clearing out supermarket shelves and queuing for petrol.

Authorities in Huanggang ordered indoor entertainment venues including cinemas and internet cafes to close.

FACE MASKS

In contrast with its secrecy over the 2002-03 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that killed nearly 800 people, China’s Communist Party government has provided regular updates to avoid panic ahead of the holidays.

During a visit to Wuhan, Vice Premier Sun Chunlan said authorities needed to be open about the virus and efforts to contain it, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Some experts believe the new virus is not as dangerous as previous coronaviruses such as SARS and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which has killed more than 700 people since 2012.

“The early evidence at this stage would suggest it’s not as severe,” Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy told reporters.

Despite China’s response, world shares fell on Thursday, led by the biggest tumble in Chinese stocks in more than eight months, as concern mounted about the outbreak. China’s yuan fell to a two-week low. [MKTS/GLOB]

The economic impact of such outbreaks are hard to quantify but a 2006 estimate by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) calculated that SARS shaved just over 1 percentage point off the GDP of China in 2003.

InterContinental Hotels and Hyatt are allowing guests to change or cancel stays at most Chinese hotels.

A general view shows the monitors of thermal scanners that detect temperatures of passengers at the security check inside the airport in Guatemala City, Guatemala January 22, 2020. REUTERS/Luis Echeverria

Many Chinese were cancelling trips, buying face masks and avoiding shopping centers.

The release of seven movies over the Lunar New Year has been postponed. The holiday is the high season for distributors and cinemas attract huge crowds.

Airports globally, including in Britain, stepped up screening of passengers from China and the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said the further global spread of the virus was likely.

“All the fatalities have so far been contained to mainland China, however, this is a rapidly developing situation and the number of deaths and the number of cases is likely to be higher than those that have been confirmed so far and I expect them to rise further,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the British parliament.

(Reporting by Yawen Chen, Se Young Lee, Sophie Yu and Gabriel Crossley in Beijing, Sam Shen and Engen Tham in Shanghai, Ben Blanchard in Taiwan, Alison Lui and Donny Kwok in Hong Kong, John Geddie and Aradhana Aravindan in Singapore, Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Kate Kelland and Elizabeth Howcroft in London; Writing by Michael Perry; Editing by Stephen Coates and Clarence Fernandez and Alison Williams)

Global alarm mounts as China virus deaths hit 17

By Cate Cadell and David Stanway

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Deaths from China’s new flu-like virus rose to 17 on Wednesday with more than 540 cases confirmed, increasing fears of contagion from an infection suspected to originate from illegally traded wildlife.

The previously unknown coronavirus strain is believed to have emerged from an animal market in central city of Wuhan, with cases now detected as far away as the United States.

Contrasting with its secrecy over the 2002-03 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that killed nearly 800 people, China’s communist government has this time given regular updates to try to avoid panic as millions travel for the Lunar New Year.

“The rise in the mobility of the public has objectively increased the risk of the epidemic spreading,” National Health Commission vice-minister Li Bin said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) was meeting in a high-tech room at its Geneva headquarters to decide whether the outbreak is a global health emergency.

Many Chinese were cancelling trips, buying face masks, avoiding public places such as cinemas and shopping centers, and even turning to an online plague simulation game or watching disaster movie “The Flu” as a way to cope.

“The best way to conquer fear is to confront fear,” said one commentator on China’s Twitter-like Weibo.

The virus has spread from Wuhan to population centers including Beijing, Shanghai, Macau and Hong Kong.

With more than 11 million people, Wuhan is central China’s main industrial and commercial center and a transport hub, home to the country’s largest inland port and gateway to its Three Gorges hydroelectric dam.

The latest death toll in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, rose from nine to 17 by midday on Wednesday, state television quoted the provincial government as saying.

The official China Daily newspaper said 544 cases had now been confirmed in the country. Thailand has confirmed four cases, while the United States, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan have each reported one.

U.S. President Donald Trump said U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had a good containment plan. “We think it is going to be handled very well,” he said at Davos in Switzerland.

RESPIRATORY THREAT

Li said the virus, which can cause pneumonia and has no effective vaccine, was being spread via breathing. Symptoms include fever, coughing and difficulty breathing.

“I believe the government for sure, but I still feel fearful. Because there’s no cure for the virus,” said Fu Ning, a 36-year-old woman in Beijing. “You have to rely on your immunity if you get an infection. It sounds very scary.”

Fears of a pandemic initially spooked markets but they regained their footing on Wednesday.

But companies across China, from Foxconn  to Huawei Technologies and HSBC Holdings , warned staff to avoid Wuhan and handed out masks.

Terry Gou, founder of Apple supplier Foxconn, said he was advising employees not to visit China. Automaker General Motors Co, which operates a plant in Wuhan in a joint venture with China’s SAIC Motor, placed a temporary restriction on employees’ travel to Wuhan.

The chief executive of one of the world’s largest aircraft lessors, Aercap, said he expected the virus to impact Chinese airlines’ profitability in the first quarter.

Chinese officials believe wildlife trafficked at a Wuhan market was the source of the virus. Two sources said provincial and city officials in Wuhan had been told to remain in the city, and those who have left were told to report their whereabouts.

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said new cases would appear as China increased monitoring. But Li said there was no evidence of “super-spreaders” capable of disseminating the virus more widely, as happened during the SARS outbreak. SARS was thought to have crossed to humans from civet cats sold for food.

GLOBAL PRECAUTIONS

Airports globally stepped up screening from China.

Russia strengthened its sanitary and quarantine controls, Britain said it was starting enhanced monitoring of passengers from Wuhan, and Singapore started screening all passengers from China. Italy created a task force to monitor the possible spread of the virus.

The Chinese-ruled gambling hub of Macau confirmed its first case of pneumonia linked to the coronavirus and tightened body-temperature screening measures.

A first case emerged in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, media reported, with the patient arriving via high-speed railway from the mainland, and Mexico was investigating a potential case.

North Korea banned foreign tourists, several foreign tour operators said. Some qualifying boxing matches for the 2020 Olympics set for Wuhan were canceled and women’s football qualifiers were shifted to Nanjing.

China’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, the top legal authority, said anyone failing to report virus cases “will be forever nailed to the pillar of historical shame”.

But some experts were skeptical. “We have reason to doubt whether surv (surveillance) is adequate as cases mount,” tweeted Lawrence Gostin, a public health expert at Georgetown University Law School in Washington.

(Reporting by Cate Cadell, Lusha Zhang and Jiang Xihao in Beijing, David Stanway in Shanghai, Anne Marie Roantree in Hong Kong, Ben Blanchard in Taipei, Josh Smith in Seoul, Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Kate Kelland in London, Alexandra Alper in Davos, Shreyashi Sanyal in Bangalore, Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne and Timothy Heritage; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Nick Macfie)

China virus deaths rise to nine, heightening global alarm

By Cate Cadell and David Stanway

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Deaths from China’s new flu-like virus rose to nine on Wednesday with more than 470 confirmed cases, heightening global fears of contagion from an infection suspected to have come from animals.

The previously unknown and contagious coronavirus strain emerged from the central city of Wuhan, with cases now detected as far away as the United States. Officials believe the origin to be a market where wildlife is traded illegally.

Contrasting with its secrecy over the 2002-03 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that killed nearly 800 people, China has this time given regular updates to try and head off panic as millions travel at home and abroad for the Lunar New Year.

“The rise in the mobility of the public has objectively increased the risk of the epidemic spreading,” National Health Commission vice-minister Li Bin acknowledged.

The World Health Organization (WHO) began an emergency meeting to rule if the outbreak was a global health emergency.

Amid official exhortations to stay calm, many Chinese were cancelling trips, buying face masks, avoiding public places like cinemas and shopping centers, and even turning to an online plague simulation game or watching disaster movie “The Flu” as a way to cope.

“The best way to conquer fear is to confront fear,” said one commentator on China’s Twitter-like Weibo.

The virus has spread from Wuhan around China to major population centers including Beijing, Shanghai, Macau and Hong Kong, with 473 cases confirmed in the country. Abroad, Thailand has confirmed four cases, while the United States, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan have each reported one.

President Donald Trump said the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had a good containment plan. “We think it is going to be handled very well,” he said at Davos in Switzerland.

RESPIRATORY THREAT

Li said the virus, which can cause pneumonia, was being spread via breathing. Symptoms include fever, coughing and difficulty breathing. About 2,200 people in contact with infected people were in isolation.

There is no vaccine for the virus.

“I believe the government for sure, but I still feel fearful. Because there’s no cure for the virus,” said Fu Ning, a 36-year-old woman in Beijing. “You have to rely on your immunity if you get an infection. It sounds very scary.”

Fears of a pandemic initially spooked markets, with aviation and luxury goods stocks hit and the yuan falling, but they were regaining their footing on Wednesday in approval of China’s containment response.

Across China, companies from Foxconn <2317.TW> to Huawei Technologies [HWT.UL] and HSBC Holdings <HSBA.L> were warning staff to avoid Wuhan and handing out masks. Terry Gou, the billionaire founder of Apple <AAPL.O> supplier Foxconn, said he was advising employees not to visit China.

With more than 11 million people, Wuhan is central China’s main industrial and commercial center and an important transport hub, home to the country’s largest inland port and gateway to its giant Three Gorges hydroelectric dam.

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said new cases would appear as China stepped up monitoring. But Li said there was no evidence of “super-spreaders” capable of disseminating the virus more widely, as happened during the SARS outbreak. SARS was thought to have crossed to humans from civet cats sold for food.

GLOBAL PRECAUTIONS

Airports round the world have stepped up screening of people from China.

The Chinese-ruled gambling hub of Macau confirmed its first case of pneumonia linked to the coronavirus and tightened body-temperature screening measures.

A first case of the virus emerged in Hong Kong on Wednesday, media reported. The patient arrived via high-speed railway from the mainland and had been quarantined.

“The whole world is watching,” the city’s commerce secretary, Edward Yau, told Reuters at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

North Korea banned foreign tourists from Wednesday due to the virus, several foreign tour operators said, losing one of its main sources of foreign currency.

Sport too was affected, with some qualifying boxing matches for the 2020 Olympics set for Wuhan canceled and women’s football qualifiers shifted to Nanjing.

China’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, the top legal authority in the communist-ruled country, posted on Tuesday that anyone failing to report virus cases “will be forever nailed to the pillar of historical shame”.

And state broadcaster CCTV has shown footage of doctors in quarantine gear in Wuhan.

But despite such openness, some experts were sceptical.

“We have reason to doubt whether surv (surveillance) is adequate as cases mount,” tweeted Lawrence Gostin, a public health expert at Georgetown University Law School in Washington.

Neil Ferguson, an infectious disease specialist at Imperial College London, estimated the number of cases in Wuhan at about 4,000 and predicted the outbreak would spread fast.

“Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than other viruses because we have no immunity to them,” he said.

(Reporting by Cate Cadell, Lusha Zhang and Jiang Xihao in Beijing, David Stanway in Shanghai, Anne Marie Roantree in Hong Kong, Ben Blanchard in Taipei, Josh Smith in Seoul, Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Kate Kelland in London, Alexandra Alper in Davos, Shreyashi Sanyal in Bangalore, Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Health officials confirm first U.S. case of China coronavirus, expand screening

By Julie Steenhuysen

(Reuters) – A U.S. resident who recently traveled to China has been diagnosed with the newly identified coronavirus that has sickened more than 300 people and killed at least six in China, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Tuesday.

The U.S. patient is responding well to treatment and was not severely ill, CDC and Washington State health officials said.

CDC officials said the agency is preparing for more U.S. cases of the coronavirus that originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, and raised its travel alert for Wuhan to a level 2, calling for enhanced precautions. Under that alert level, the CDC recommends travelers to Wuhan should avoid contact with sick people, animals or animal markets.

“We do expect additional cases in the United States and globally,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, a CDC respiratory diseases expert said on a conference call with reporters.

CDC officials said they have begun tracking down individuals who came in contact with the patient to check them for symptoms.

Last week, the CDC began screening travelers from China at U.S. airports in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. On Tuesday, the agency said it will expand screening for the virus to the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta and O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.

Besides the United States, cases outside of China have been reported in South Korea, Thailand and Japan.

“I don’t think looking at what we know so far that this it on the scale of SARS and MERS, the two most significant coronavirus outbreaks that we know from history,” Dr. Amesh Adalja, from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, said in a phone interview.

“It is early days in this outbreak and we don’t have a good handle on the severity of illness,” Adalja added.

On the call, CDC officials said they have screened more than 1,200 passengers since Jan. 17. None of them have been sent on for additional testing.

The U.S. traveler from Washington state had returned on Jan. 15, arriving at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which is not on the U.S. list for enhanced screening.

The patient sought care at a medical facility in Everett, Washington, and was treated for the illness. Based on his travel history and symptoms, healthcare professionals suspected the new coronavirus.

Specimens were taken from the patient and sent to the CDC for testing. The agency said it has developed a new test that allowed it to identify the presence of the virus in a traveler.

Washington state health officials said they are taking steps to protect the public and continue to believe the risk is low. Healthcare personnel are taking precautions to prevent the infection from spreading to hospital staff, they added.

As is often the case, preliminary information suggests older adults with underlying health conditions may be at increased risk of severe disease, CDC’s Messonnier said.

The agency is working with health officials in China and globally to better understand the virus and any potential treatments.

Messonnier confirmed that the CDC is working with the U.S. National Institutes of Health to develop diagnostics and a vaccine. U.S. officials have said it could take at least a year of testing before any vaccine could be used on the public.

(Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru and Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

Virus spreads to more Chinese cities, President Xi says containment is priority

By Se Young Lee and Colin Qian

BEIJING (Reuters) – An outbreak of a new coronavirus has spread to more Chinese cities, including the capital Beijing and Shanghai, authorities said on Monday, and a fourth case has been reported beyond China’s borders.

China’s National Health Commission confirmed that the virus, which causes a type of pneumonia, can pass from person-to-person, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

President Xi Jinping said curbing the outbreak and saving lives was a top priority as the number of patients more than tripled and a third person died.

Adding to the difficulties of containing it, hundreds of millions of Chinese will be traveling domestically and abroad during the Lunar New Year holiday that starts this week.

Authorities around the globe, including in the United States and many Asian countries, have stepped up screening of travelers from Wuhan, the central city where the virus was first discovered.

“Wuhan is a major hub and with travel being a huge part of the fast approaching Chinese New Year, the concern level must remain high. There is more to come from this outbreak,” said Jeremy Farrar, a specialist in infectious disease epidemics and director of the Wellcome Trust global health charity.

Authorities confirmed a total of 217 new cases of the virus in China as of 6 p.m. local time (1000 GMT) on Monday, state television reported, 198 of which were in Wuhan.

Five new cases were confirmed in Beijing and 14 more in Guangdong province, the report said. Another statement confirmed a new case in Shanghai, bringing the number of known cases worldwide to 222.

“People’s lives and health should be given top priority and the spread of the outbreak should be resolutely curbed,” President Xi was quoted as saying by state television.

The virus belongs to the same family of coronaviruses as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 800 people globally during a 2002/03 outbreak that also started in China.

Its symptoms include fever and difficulty in breathing, which are similar to many other respiratory diseases and pose complications for screening efforts.

Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory expert and head of the health commission team investigating the outbreak, confirmed that two cases of infection in Guangdong province were due to human-to-human transmission, Xinhua said. Some medical staff have been infected, it added, but gave no number.

BEYOND BORDERS

South Korea on Monday confirmed its first case, a 35-year-old Chinese national who had traveled from Wuhan, the fourth patient reported outside China.

Last week, two cases were reported in Thailand and one in Japan. All three involved people from Wuhan or who recently visited the city.

A report by London Imperial College’s MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis estimated that by Jan. 12 there were 1,723 cases in Wuhan City with onset of related symptoms. Chinese health authorities have not commented directly on the report.

“This outbreak is extremely concerning. Uncertainty and gaps remain, but it is now clear that there is person to person transmission,” Farrar said.

The World Health Organization said on Monday “an animal source” appeared most likely to be the primary source of the outbreak and that some “limited human-to-human transmission” occurred between close contacts.

China’s state council reiterated the government will step up prevention efforts and find the source of infection and transmission channels as soon as possible, state television said on Monday.

Shares in pharmaceutical firms and mask makers in China surged Monday because of the outbreak.

“Who knows how many people who have been to Wuhan may be unaware that they have already been infected?,” said one commentator on Chinese social media platform Weibo

The state-run Global Times newspaper said in an editorial the government needs to disclose all information and not repeat the mistakes made with SARS. Chinese officials covered up the SARS outbreak for weeks before a growing death toll and rumors forced it to reveal the epidemic.

“Concealment would be a serious blow to the government’s credibility and might trigger greater social panic,” the editorial said.

(Reporting by Winni Zhou and Josh Horwitz in Shanghai, Roxanne Liu, Sophie Yu, Judy Hua and Colin Qian and Se Young Lee in Beijing, Joyce Lee in Seoul and Kate Kelland in London; Writing by Se Young Lee; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

WHO says new China coronavirus could spread, warns hospitals worldwide

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – There may have been limited human-to-human transmission of a new coronavirus in China within families, and it is possible there could be a wider outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause infections ranging from the common cold to SARS. A Chinese woman has been quarantined in Thailand with a mystery strain of coronavirus, Thai authorities said on Monday, the first time the virus has been detected outside China.

In all, 41 cases of pneumonia have been reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, which preliminary lab tests cited by state media showed could be from a new type of coronavirus, and one patient has died. There have since been no new cases or deaths, Wuhan health authorities said on Tuesday.

“From the information that we have it is possible that there is limited human-to-human transmission, potentially among families, but it is very clear right now that we have no sustained human-to-human transmission,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, acting head of WHO’s emerging diseases unit.

The WHO is however preparing for the possibility that there could be a wider outbreak, she told a Geneva news briefing. “It is still early days, we don’t have a clear clinical picture.”

Some types of the virus cause less serious diseases, while others – like the one that causes MERS – are far more severe.

The U.N. agency has given guidance to hospitals worldwide about infection prevention and control in case the new virus spreads. There is no specific treatment for the new virus, but anti-virals are being considered and could be “re-purposed”, Van Kerkhove said.

With Chinese New Year approaching on Jan. 25, when many Chinese tourists visit Thailand, the WHO called on Thai authorities, the public and holidaymakers to be on alert.

Richard Brow, the agency’s representative in Thailand, said anyone with a fever and cough who had spent time in Wuhan should get checked out by a health worker.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; additional reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng in Bangkok and Vincent Lee; Editing by John Stonestreet and Pravin Char)

Chicken and Turkey Farmers Prepare for Return of Bird Flu This Fall

Another round of bird flu could be on the way due to the annual fall migration of wild birds.

The avian flu affected 48.8 million poultry in 21 states this spring. Iowa and Minnesota were hit the hardest by the outbreak. Minnesota alone saw $600 million in losses as the virus spread to over 100 farms in the state.

Many believe that migrating ducks and geese are what carried the bird flu into the United States, but thousands of droppings have been tested and so far, the results have come up negative. Others blame lapses in biosecurity and other farmers blame the wind.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated that the situation could have been handled better.

“We understand there are issues involving biosecurity, there are issues involving depopulation, there are issues involving disposal, there are issues involving indemnification, and the time for repopulation,” Vilsack said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has since issued a 57-page plan for this fall that reportedly can handle twice as many infections. The USDA is also hoping to stockpile the vaccine that will reduce the amount of virus created from an outbreak, but it won’t fully protect the birds.

The scare of another bird flu outbreak has also started a controversy on how to dispose of birds who are infected with the virus. U.S. agriculture officials have approved a new method that would entail trapping infected poultry in a sealed atmosphere, turning up the heat, and shutting off all ventilation. Animals rights groups immediately responded, stating that this method was cruel.

“We shouldn’t compound the problems for birds by subjecting them to a particularly miserable and protracted means of euthanasia,” said Michael Blackwell, the Humane Society’s chief veterinary officer.

U.S. agriculture officials state that this method isn’t the first choice as it can take 30 to 40 minutes for the birds to die of heat stress.

33 Now Confirmed Dead From MERS

The World Health Organization has confirmed a 33rd death from the MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) coronavirus along with three new cases in Saudi Arabia.

The new cases make 58 laboratory-confirmed cases of the infection. The latest death was a 21-year-old man who had been admitted into intensive care earlier this week. The death is unusual in that most cases involve older people; the other two cases in Saudi Arabia are a 63-year old woman in stable condition and a 75-year-old man in intensive care. Continue reading