China believes a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck 59 people is due to a new strain of virus from the family of pathogens that includes SARS, state media said Thursday.
The infection was first confirmed on December 31 in Wuhan, a central Chinese city with a population of over 11 million, and initially sparked fears about a resurgence of the highly contagious flu-like SARS.
It has also prompted authorities in Hong Kong — badly hit by SARS in 2002-2003 — to take precautionary measures, including stepping up the disinfection of trains and airplanes, including checks of passengers.
An expert team has “preliminarily determined” that a new type of coronavirus is behind the outbreak, lead scientist Xu Jianguo told the official Xinhua news agency.
“A total of 15 positive results of the new type of coronavirus had been detected” in the lab, through tests on infected blood samples and throat swabs, Xu said.