Public health officials in China have locked down three cities in the central part of the country in response to a new, deadly coronavirus that has already claimed 17 lives and infected hundreds more.
More than 570 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed across China with new cases popping up in nearby countries, including two in Hong Kong, and one in the U.S. The CDC confirmed Tuesday. In response, Chinese officials have shut down the roads, trains and flights going in and out of Wuhan, where 11 million people make their home. Similar travel restrictions were enacted in the neighboring cities of Huanggan and Ezhou.
The new coronavirus, known as 2019-nCoV, belongs to a family of viruses that include things like the common cold, to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). The virus is likely spread through tiny droplets when a person coughs or sneezes and symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Severe cases can lead to pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and death.
The first cases have been linked to a seafood and meat market located in Wuhan.
In response to the outbreak, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began conducting health screenings of passengers arriving at New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles International Airport from China in response to the coronavirus outbreak. On Thursday, a report from NBC4 in Los Angeles said a passenger screened at LAX showed symptoms of the coronavirus, however officials could not confirm whether the passenger actually had the virus.
Authorities said the patient entered the U.S. before the screening procedures were implemented and did not show any signs of the virus when he arrived. Health officials said they plan to start screening passengers in Chicago and Atlanta as well.
The World Health Organization is expected to announce later on Thursday on whether the new coronavirus can be classified as a global emergency.
The outbreak comes during one a busy travel season as millions of Chinese people celebrate the Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival later this week. The virus has disrupted many people's plans, with many people electing to stay home this year and Beijing cancelling many public events.
“I couldn't find any mask on the market for sale. I dare not go outside," college student Du Sijia, 21, from Xiamen on China’s southeast coast told NBC News. "I don't even dare to order takeaways because I'm afraid of the virus."
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