China: More than 400 cases of mystery virus confirmed

China: More than 400 cases of mystery virus confirmed
© NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images

Chinese officials said ahead of a World Health Organization emergency meeting that a viral illness that has killed at least nine people has now infected at least 440, according to The Associated Press.

“There has already been human-to-human transmission and infection of medical workers,” Li Bin, deputy director of the National Health Commission, said at a news conference with health experts. “Evidence has shown that the disease has been transmitted through the respiratory tract and there is the possibility of viral mutation.”

The nine people who have died from the virus have all been in Hubei province, the AP noted, adding that the first cases of the illness emerged in the province’s capital, Wuhan, in late December. All but 69 cases have reportedly occurred in the province.

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Thai authorities on Wednesday said three Chinese visitors and one Thai national had contracted the virus, while Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the U.S. have also each reported a single case, all among people from Wuhan or those who recently visited the province.

“The situation is under control here,” Thai Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul told reporters, according to the AP. “We checked all of them: taxi drivers, people who wheeled the wheelchairs for the patients, doctors and nurses who worked around them.”

Dr. Peter Horby, a professor of emerging infectious diseases at Oxford University, said the disease had met three criteria for an international emergency: an extraordinary event accompanied by a risk of international spread that required a globally coordinated response, the news service noted.