What's new in the China virus outbreak

The Associated Press
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China Outbreak

Medical workers use an infrared thermometer to check travelers at a train station in Nanchang in southern China's Jiangxi Province, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. Chinese health authorities urged people in the city of Wuhan to avoid crowds and public gatherings, after warning that a new viral illness that has infected more than 400 people and killed at least nine could spread further. (Chinatopix via AP)

Hundreds of cases of a new viral respiratory illness have been confirmed in China and elsewhere since an outbreak began last month in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Scientists have identified the illness as a new kind of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some of which cause the common cold. Others have evolved into more severe illnesses, such as SARS and MERS, although so far the new virus does not appear to be nearly as deadly or contagious.

WHAT'S NEW TODAY

— People will not be allowed to leave Wuhan. Outbound flights, trains, buses and ferries were all being halted.

— The number of confirmed cases in China jumped to more than 500 and the death toll was raised to 17.

— The World Health Organization put off deciding whether to declare the outbreak a global health emergency and asked its expert committee on the issue to meet again Thursday. Previous emergencies have been declared for epidemics including the ongoing Ebola outbreak in Congo and the Zika virus in the Americas in 2016.

— North Korea banned foreign tourists to guard against the entry of the virus, tour operators said. Most tourists to North Korea are Chinese or others who travel from China on organized tours.

— The virus has rattled financial markets and raised worries about the economy. The 2003 SARS crisis caused $40 billion to $50 billion in losses from reduced travel and spending.