The Foreign Office (FCO) has warned Britons to be aware of potential health screening measures in China following the spread of a new “coronavirus”.
Nearly 300 cases have now been reported across a number of major cities in China, including capital Beijing and Shanghai, claiming several lives – as many as six according to Chinese media.
However, a report by the UK-based MRC Centre for Infectious Disease Analysis, said the number was likely to be considerably higher, closer to 2,000.
The virus is understood to have originated in Wuhan, Hubei province. Two cases have been identified in Thailand, and each one in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. All those affected had recently returned from Wuhan, the BBC reports.
On Monday (20 January), China’s National Health Commission confirmed for the first time the infection could pass from human to human following two cases in Guangdong province.
The virus is known to cause respiratory illnesses in humans, akin to pneumonia or bronchitis, with cold-like symptoms such as headache, cough, sore throat and fever.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) will decide on Wednesday (22 January) whether to declare an international public health emergency, which would demand a global response similar to those that followed swine flu and ebola.
Several destinations have stepped up their own screening measures amid the outbreak, including Australia, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The US has introduced new measures at airports in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.
The FCO updated its travel advice for China on Tuesday, stating: “There is an ongoing outbreak of coronavirus. The virus originated in Wuhan city, Hubei province, but cases have been confirmed in other parts of China. Additional health screening measures may be in place.”