Death toll from new coronavirus outbreak rises to six in Chinese city of Wuhan

Medical staff at Jinyintan hospital in Wuhan, China, where patients with pneumonia caused by the new strain of coronavirus are being treated (Reuters)

The death toll from the new coronavirus outbreak has risen to six in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

The city’s mayor announced the latest toll on state television.

A total of 258 cases of the respiratory virus had been confirmed in the city by the end of Monday, Zhou Xianwang said.

Separately, China's eastern Zhejiang provincial health authority said a total of five cases of the new coronavirus were confirmed on Tuesday.

Public Health England’s National Infection Service has said the risk to the UK of the coronavirus is “very low”.

It is feared a British tourist in Phuket, Thailand, may have been struck down by the coronavirus, according to reports.

Meanwhile, authorities in Australia have confirmed that a man in Brisbane is being treated for the coronavirus.

Medical staff transfer a patient from an ambulance at Jinyintan hospital in Wuhan, China (Reuters)

It is believed he recently returned from a visit to Wuhan, where he has family.

Initial symptoms of the new coronavirus include fever, cough, tightness of the chest and shortness of breath.

Heightened precautions are being taken in China and elsewhere as governments strive to control the outbreak.

Anxieties around the disease have intensified after Chinese government expert Zhong Nanshan revealed on state television that the virus can be spread between humans. Authorities had previously said there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission.

Apart from Wuhan, other people have been diagnosed in Beijing, Shanghai and southern Guangdong province.

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Internationally, four cases of coronavirus have been confirmed among Chinese travellers in South Korea, Japan and Thailand.

Concerned about a global outbreak similar to Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome), a different coronavirus that spread from China to more than a dozen countries in 2002-2003, numerous nations have adopted screening measures for travellers arriving from China, especially those from Wuhan.

Gabriel Leung, chair professor of public health medicine at the University of Hong Kong, speaks about the extent of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak (AFP/Getty)

Australia's chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said his country will be increasing airport screening.

Australia receives a significant number of travellers from China, including three direct flights a week from Wuhan into Sydney, and these flights will be met by border security and biosecurity staff for assessments.

Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and other places with extensive travel links to China are also enacting stricter screening measures.

A notice for passengers from Wuhan, China is displayed near a quarantine station at Narita airport in Japan (Getty)

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe said: "We need to step up our caution levels as the number of patients is continuing to rise in China. Please take every possible precaution."

The first cases identified late last month were among people connected to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan. The first patients were suspected to have contracted the virus from animals, but human-to-human transmission was confirmed on Monday.

Fifteen medical workers have also tested positive for the virus, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission announced.