WHO calls emergency meeting as 4th person in China dies from virus

Accra, Jan. 21, (UPI/GNA) – Chinese health
officials said on Tuesday that a fourth person has died from a recently
identified coronavirus as the World Health Organization (WHO) calls for an
emergency meeting over fears of it becoming an international concern.

Health officials in the central Chinese city
of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, said in a statement the death toll
rose to four from the virus after an 89-year-old man named Chen died late
Sunday, a day after being admitted to the hospital with severe breathing

WHO said Director-General Tedros Adhanom
Ghebreyesus has called for an emergency committee to convene Wednesday to
determine if the outbreak should be declared “a public health emergency of
international concern.”

Health officials in Wuhan first confirmed it
was treating patients suffering from pneumonia caused by an unknown virus on
Dec. 31. The disease was soon identified as a coronavirus, similar to the one
behind severe acute respiratory syndrome, better known as SARS, which killed
hundreds of people in China in the early 2000s, and that it is believed to have
originated from a now-closed Wuhan seafood market.

The new coronavirus has since spread
throughout China with confirmed cases separated by nearly 1,500 miles in
Beijing and Shenzhen. Confirmed cases have also turned up to hospitals in South
Korea, Japan and Thailand with more than 100 suspected cases reported in Hong

In Australia, one man suffering from
symptoms who recently visited Wuhan is under quarantine at his Brisbane
residence as health authorities run tests to confirm if he is carrying the
virus, Australia’s ABC reported.

By Tuesday, the number of confirmed cases in
Wuhan was 198 with 224 cases of pneumonia caused by the disease reported
nationwide. At least nine patients were described as critically ill.

Fears over the disease’s spread have been
stoked following WHO’s revelation that human-to-human transmission is possible
after health officials initially said it was believed to be transferable only
by animals.

Zhong Nanshan, director of the Guangzhou
State Key Laboratory of Respiratory Disease, said Monday night on state-run
television that the disease has been found in patients who lived hundreds of
miles from Wuhan.

“Now we can say it is certain that it
is a human-to-human transmission phenomenon,” he said.

The way to battle the disease is to bar
those with symptoms from leaving Wuhan, a city of some 11 million people and
home to an international airport, he said.

“At present, there is no special cure
for this new coronavirus and [we are] conducting some tests with animals,”
he said. “We expect the number of infected cases will increase over the
Lunar New Year travel period and we need to prevent the emergence of a super-spreader
of the virus.”

Meanwhile, President Xi Jinping has ordered
increased efforts to stop the spread of the disease.