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China - Original COVID-19 coronavirus news thread: weeks 1 - 4 (December 30, 2019 - January 25, 2020)

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  • Wuhan pneumonia weird: hospital locked up and guarded by Yan Yanji, taken to police station

    Beijing Time: 2020-01-14 05:03[NTD Beijing, January 14, 2020] Wuhan's new type of coronavirus pneumonia continues to spread to neighboring countries, and the Chinese Communist Party officials said no new cases were found, raising questions. At present, a number of Hong Kong media reporters went to Wuhan to visit the site. They found that the hospital building where the patient was located was heavily guarded and the main door was locked. All reporters were taken to the police station and the videos shot by the reporter were requested to be deleted.

    On January 14, Radio Hong Kong reported that the Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan, where patients with pneumonia were isolated, was heavily guarded, with multiple security guards stationed and staff visiting. In the South Building where patients were hospitalized, the main entrance of the building was reportedly chained.

    NOW News reporters were intercepted during the hospital-wide shooting, and then brought into the police station in the hospital. Radio Television Hong Kong, Commercial Radio, TVB, NOW News reporters and photographers were all taken to the same police station.

    The report said that all the people were checked for belongings and were filmed with a return permit and a reporter's card. They were also asked to delete the videos shot in the hospital and released after about an hour and a half...


    • Wuhan Municipal Health and Health Commission notified about pneumonia of new coronavirus infection
      China News Network | 2020-01-14 22:45:42

      China News Service, Wuhan, January 14th: The Wuhan Municipal Health and Health Committee briefed on the latest situation of pneumonitis associated with new coronavirus infections on the evening of the 14th: At 04:00 on January 13, 2020, there was no new pneumonia infected by new coronavirus in the city No cases were cured and discharged, and no new deaths were reported.

      According to the report, as of now, Wuhan has reported a total of 41 cases of pneumonitis with new coronavirus infection, 7 cases have been cured and discharged, 6 cases are being treated in severe cases, and 1 case has died. The remaining patients are in stable condition. Isolation treatment. A total of 763 close contacts have been tracked, 187 medical observations have been lifted, and 576 medical observations are still underway. Among the close contacts, no related cases were found.

      The World Health Organization issued a statement on the 13th stating that it has received a report confirming the diagnosis of a new coronavirus in a Chinese traveler in Thailand. In response, the Wuhan Municipal Health and Health Committee said in a notification issued on the 14th that the case is currently being isolated and hospitalized in Thailand, and close contacts who are returning are conducting follow-up and medical observations. (Finish)


      • Source:
        Questions and answers on pneumonia outbreaks of new coronary infections
        (January 14, 2020)
        Published by: Wuhan Municipal Health Committee | Published: 2020-01-15 00:10:06 | Hits: 227 | Font size: Large Middle Small

        1. Recently, a tourist from Wuhan was diagnosed with pneumonia in a new type of coronary case infection in Thailand. Please provide relevant information.

        On January 13, 2020, Thailand reported a case of pneumonia with a new coronavirus infection from Wuhan. The city attaches great importance to timely investigation. The patient is a citizen of our city and is now receiving treatment in Thailand with a stable condition. At the same time, the health department conducted medical observations on all close contacts of the patient found, and there is no abnormal performance at present.

        2. At present, in order to detect pneumonia cases of new coronavirus infection as early as possible, what measures have been taken in our city?

        After the outbreak, our city quickly carried out screening of relevant cases in all medical institutions in the city. As of January 10, 2020, the expert group synthesized the clinical manifestations, epidemiological history, and laboratory test results of patients to determine the new coronavirus. 41 cases of infected pneumonia. At present, the city has further strengthened case monitoring and search work. On the one hand, it continues to do a good job of monitoring for pneumonia of unknown cause; on the other hand, it conducts case searches in various medical institutions at all levels in our city in order to detect cases early.

        3. As of now, has there been any case of human-to-human transmission?

        Existing survey results show that clear human-to-human evidence has not been found, and the possibility of limited human-to-human transmission cannot be ruled out, but the risk of continued human-to-human transmission is low. Further research is currently underway combining clinical and epidemiological data.

        4. Has a family clustering case been found?

        Among the 41 cases currently diagnosed, one was found to be clustered in the family. The husband and wife developed the disease first, and the husband first developed the disease. He was an employee of the South China Seafood Wholesale Market. His wife denied a history of South China Seafood Wholesale Market exposure.

        5. What are close contacts? Why medical observation of close contacts for 14 days? If close contacts develop symptoms during the observation period, how can they be diagnosed and diagnosed?

        At present, the close contacts defined in this epidemic are those who live with patients, work and study in the same room, and live in the same room. Medical staff and caregivers who have not taken effective protective measures during the diagnosis and treatment of cases have not taken effective protective measures. Laboratory testing personnel, other patients or accompanying staff in the ward, other contact situations determined by disease control professionals in the same transportation with the patient and close contact with the person.

        With reference to the incubation period of diseases caused by other coronaviruses, information about this new coronavirus case, and current prevention and control practices, the medical observation period for close contacts is set to 14 days, and home medical observations are made for close contacts. During the observation period, once the close contacts are found to have abnormal clinical manifestations such as fever and cough, the close contacts will be sent to the designated medical institution for investigation, diagnosis and treatment in a timely manner.

        6. What are the characteristics of the epidemic that have been found so far? What is the development trend of the epidemic?

        Of the 41 cases diagnosed, most were male, and the number of middle-aged and elderly people was higher. In the early stage of the case, fever and cough are the main symptoms, which can be manifested as persistent mild disease in the early stage. Older patients with underlying disease are more likely to progress to severe disease.

        Preliminary results of existing etiology studies and epidemiological investigations show that most of the cases are related to the South China Seafood Wholesale Market exposure, a few cases deny a history of South China Seafood Wholesale Market exposure, and some cases have been exposed to similar cases. No community transmission has been identified.

        7. After closing the South China Seafood Wholesale Market, are there any findings in the market? What measures have other markets taken?

        After the South China Seafood Wholesale Market was closed, the city strengthened its disposal of market environmental hygiene, carried out disinfection and sanitary disposal of the market, and carried out garbage cleaning and disinfection. In order to strengthen the traceability work, environmental specimens are collected and tested in the market. At present, the test results found that some samples were positive for new coronavirus. At the same time, preliminary investigations have been conducted in other markets, and no clues related to the source of the infection have been found.


        • This article refers to the visit of the Hong Kong health authorities to Wuhan to assess the current situation.

          Tuesday, January 14, 2020
          [Wuhan Pneumonia] Lin Zheng: Chen Zhaoshi held an expert meeting tomorrow morning to explain the latest situation of Wuhan pneumonia (10:51) The government went to Wuhan to inspect the local situation of pneumococcal pneumonia. Chief Executive Lin Zheng Yue'e said this morning (14) before the executive meeting that the delegation will return to Hong Kong tonight. The Minister of Food and Health Chen Zhaoshi will hold an expert meeting tomorrow morning. And explain to the public the latest situation of Wuhan pneumonia.

          Xu Deyi, Deputy Director of the Food and Health Bureau, and representatives from the Department of Health and the Hospital Authority went to Wuhan to learn about the case of pneumonia in Wuhan, and was questioned about the lack of transparency. Confidentiality. After the delegation completes the inspection, it will meet with the experts as soon as possible and explain the latest information to the public. She emphasized that the Government and the HA would release information to the public in accordance with the principles of openness and transparency.

          Lin Zhengyue said that the government will not relax in dealing with Wuhan pneumonia, will respond quickly, stand up and maintain transparency, and call on the public to pay attention to personal hygiene and do not take it lightly.
          Last edited by sharon sanders; January 14, 2020, 12:22 PM. Reason: added top line


          • Novel Coronavirus – Thailand (ex-China)

            Disease outbreak news
            14 January 2020

            On 13 January 2020, the Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) reported the first imported case of lab-confirmed novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) from Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.

            The case is a 61-year-old Chinese woman living in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. On 5 January 2020, she developed fever with chills, sore throat and headache. On 8 January 2020, she took a direct flight to Thailand from Wuhan City together with five family members in a tour group of 16 people. The traveler with febrile illness was detected on the same day by thermal surveillance at Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), Thailand, and was hospitalized the same day. After temperature check and initial assessment, she was transferred to the hospital for further investigations and treatment.

            The patient’s full exposure history is under investigation. She reported a history of visiting a local fresh market in Wuhan on regular basis prior to the onset of illness on 5 January 2020; however, she did not report visiting the Huanan South China Seafood Market from where most of the cases were detected. Samples tested positive for coronaviruses by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) on 12 January 2020. The genomic sequencing analysis performed by Emerging Infectious Diseases Health Science Center, the Thai Red Cross Society (EID-TRC) and the Thai National Institute of Health (Thai NIH), Department of Medical Sciences confirmed that the patient was infected with the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) which was isolated in Wuhan, China (for more information, please see the Disease Outbreak News published on 12 January 2020).

            As of this writing, the patient is in a stable condition and in hospital. Public health response

            The Ministry of Public Health Thailand implemented measures for screening travelers from Wuhan city on 3 January 2020 at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Don Mueang, Phuket and Chiang Mai airports, and activated enhanced surveillance at public and private hospitals. Since the identification of the case on 5 January 2019, Thai health authorities have taken the following measures:
            • Eight febrile travelers were detected by a thermo-scan at Suvarnabhumi Airport. They have been isolated and tested, and none of them have been confirmed with 2019-nCov infection.
            • A total of 182 contacts were identified and are being monitored. The contacts were fellow passengers as well as members of the same tour group. Only one contact developed respiratory symptoms and the PCR test of throat swab yields positive for Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).
            • Risk communication guidance has been shared with the public and a hotline has been established by the Department of Disease Control for people returning from the affected area in China with related symptoms.

            The Ministry of Public Health of Thailand has international-standard diagnosis and medical care, and is closely coordinating with WHO and related departments for the potential response measures. WHO risk assessment

            This is the first exported case of novel coronavirus from Wuhan city, China. Since the initial report of cases in Wuhan city on 31 December 2019, 41 cases have a preliminary diagnosis of 2019-nCoV infection, including 1 death in a person with severe underlying medical conditions (for more information, please see the Disease Outbreak News published on 12 January 2020).

            As the traveler did not report having visited the market linked to most of the other cases, it is vital that investigations continue to identify the source of infection. To date, China has not reported any cases of infection among healthcare workers or contacts of the cases. Based on the available information there is no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission. No additional cases have been detected since 3 January 2020 in China.

            Additional investigation is needed to ascertain the presence of human-to-human transmission, modes of transmission, common source of exposure and the presence of asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic cases that are undetected. It is critical to review all available information to fully understand the potential transmissibility among humans. WHO advice

            Health authorities should work with travel, transport and tourism sectors to provide travelers with information to reduce the general risk of acute respiratory infections via travel health clinics, travel agencies, conveyance operators and at points of entry.

            WHO has provided interim guidance for novel coronaviruses .

            WHO advises against the application of any travel or trade restrictions on Thailand based on the information currently available on this event.

            For more information on novel coronavirus, please see:



            • CHP closely monitors confirmed case of infection of novel coronavirus in Thailand
              ************************************************** ***********

              The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health said today (January 14) that the CHP has been closely monitoring a new confirmed case of infection of novel coronavirus in Thailand reported to the World Health Organization (WHO). The public is again urged to maintain strict personal, food and environmental hygiene both locally and during travel.

              According to information from the health authority of Thailand, the case involved a patient from Wuhan, Hubei Province, in Mainland China, who arrived at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand, on January 8 and was detected to be having high fever. The patient was subsequently taken to a local medical institute for isolation and management. Laboratory tests there returned a positive result for the novel coronavirus on January 12. The patient has recovered and there have not been additional cases.

              The WHO said it is working with officials in the Mainland and Thailand following the report. It pointed out that the possibility of cases being identified in other countries was not unexpected and has also issued guidance on how to detect and treat patients infected with the novel coronavirus.

              A spokesman for the CHP said, "The CHP will continue to maintain its liaison with the WHO, the health authority of Thailand and the National Health Commission, and closely monitor the situation for risk assessment. Port health measures will be adjusted as and when appropriate."

              In response to the pneumonia cases infected with the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, the Port Health Division (PHD) of the CHP has earlier strengthened port health measures and enhanced temperature screening of travellers with increased frequency of random checking at all boundary control points. An additional thermal imaging system dedicated for temperature screening of travellers from flights arriving in Hong Kong from Wuhan has been put in place at Hong Kong International Airport.

              Moreover, additional temperature checks using handheld infrared thermometers for all inbound travellers during the periods when the two daily high-speed trains with stops at Wuhan arrive in Hong Kong are conducted to ensure that the body temperatures of all passengers from these two trains are checked. Travellers with fever and acute respiratory symptoms who had visited Wuhan within 14 days prior to the onset of illness will be immediately referred to public hospitals for isolation, treatment and follow-up.

              The PHD has advised the MTR Corporation Limited, the Airport Authority Hong Kong and relevant airlines to strengthen the cleaning and disinfection work for the high-speed trains and aircraft arriving in Hong Kong from Wuhan. Cleaning and disinfection work for West Kowloon Station of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link and airport terminal buildings have also been stepped up. Furthermore, the PHD has enhanced the dissemination of health messages through broadcast to travellers in, for example, flight cabins and West Kowloon Station, distribution of leaflets, displaying posters and promulgating travel health news via website. The PHD will continue to maintain close liaison with stakeholders of all boundary control points to update them in a timely manner about the latest situation and relevant measures.



              • Canadian scientist remains cautious of new coronavirus: 'It is very reminiscent of SARS'

                Dr. Allison McGeer has seen this movie before. This time, she is hoping for a different ending.

                McGeer, who both contracted SARS and played a key role in Toronto’s response to the deadly 2003 outbreak, sees similarities between the new coronavirus causing severe pneumonia in China and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome).

                “It is very reminiscent of SARS,” she said in an interview. “I think this is very reminiscent of what happened at the beginning of SARS.”




                • 1 family-connected couple diagnosed with new coronavirus

                  The Wuhan Municipal Health and Health Committee announced at midnight that one of the 41 cases of new coronavirus infections currently diagnosed was "family clustering" and both spouses were ill. The husband of the South China Seafood Wholesale Market practitioner first became ill and his wife He denied having been exposed to the environment of this wholesale market.
                  The Health Commission pointed out that the existing survey results show that no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission has been found. Although the possibility of limited human-to-human transmission cannot be ruled out, the risk of continued human-to-human transmission is low, and further research is being combined with clinical and epidemiological data.



                    China Deserves Some Credit for Its Handling of the Wuhan Pneumonia

                    The country’s response to this outbreak has been far better than to SARS, although even more information-sharing is important.

                    By Daniel Lucey, Annie Sparrow | January 14, 2020, 8:20 PM

                    Ask Congress to Investigate COVID Origins and Government Response to Pandemic H.R. 834

                    i love myself. the quietest. simplest. most powerful. revolution ever. ---- nayyirah waheed

                    (My posts are not intended as advice or professional assessments of any kind.)
                    Never forget Excalibur.


                    • Source:

                      [Wuhan Pneumonia] Health Protection Center: 70% of patients work in Wuhan seafood market
                      Society 16:27 2020/01/15

                      The pneumonia epidemic in Wuhan has continued. The government sent staff to Wuhan to inspect the local prevention and control and the situation of the epidemic. A press conference was held today (15th) to report the situation. 70% of patients work long hours in the South China Seafood Market in Wuhan. The relevant merchants mainly sell aquatic products, not game. However, it was revealed that in addition to aquatic products and birds, the market involved also includes bamboo rats, snakes, crickets, hedgehogs, etc. Game, but the quantity of game sold is unknown.

                      Zhang Zhujun pointed out that the personnel of the health and health committee of the authorities detected viruses in the market environment, such as the location of the underground, countertops, and gloves, all of which were found near the aquatic stalls. She pointed out that the local staff did not collect only near the aquatic stalls, but the virus was only found in the aquatic stalls. As for the survival time of the virus, it is still to be studied. Because it is not an animal sample, the health committee failed to pinpoint the source of the virus.

                      She also pointed out that Mainland experts have formulated rapid tests for new coronaviruses and have successively distributed them to provinces and cities across the country. Hong Kong has also obtained relevant nucleic acid reagents and is in the process of developing rapid tests for the viruses. When asked about a case in Thailand that had not been diagnosed in the South China Seafood Market but had been to other wet markets in Wuhan, Zhang Zhujun said that the authorities were still investigating the location of the market in question.

                      The government also stated that the confirmed case involved a couple, but the wife developed the illness later than the husband. The chance is that the husband first infected and then passed on his wife. Therefore, human transmission is not ruled out. Please immediately: [Wuhan pneumonia] Hong Kong government: Wuhan pneumonia Does not rule out throat, sputum and blood in patients with limited human-to-human transmission


                      • Source:

                        A pneumonia caused by a new coronavirus broke out in Wuhan. A government team from Hong Kong met with reporters this afternoon (15th) after a visit to Wuhan. Zhang Zhujun, director of the Infectious Diseases Division of the Center for Health Protection, said that in the South China Seafood Market in Wuhan, which is suspected to be the source of the disease, environmental samples have been tested positive for the new coronavirus; a case of a couple infected by the mainland has not been identified. It is said that his wife became ill after he brought home items from the market and polluted the environment. She also pointed out that in addition to the couple's case, there was also a case of a three-person group in which the patients were a father and son and a son-in-law.

                        Zhang Zhujun said that of the 41 patients in Wuhan, seven adults had visited the South China Seafood Market, which is believed to be the source of the disease. The remaining patients reported that they had not been there or were "too serious to ask", and most of the patients appeared on the market for sale. The area of ​​aquatic seafood is not for those who sell game. She said that in addition to living together, the three patients in the three-person group also operated stores in the South China Seafood Market. The onset time was relatively short. It is believed that they may be more likely to be jointly exposed to the virus and less likely to be transmitted from person to person. However, she said that during the inspection, she did not ask in detail what the three patients were selling in the market. "The question was missed." Therefore, she was not sure. They could only infer that they were also selling aquatic products.

                        A couple who was defined as a family group case, Zhang Zhujun initially only said that her husband developed the disease first, and his wife developed the disease "every few days". After questioning, she said that "there was no question to be clear". It is believed that the conversation between the mainland personnel occurred about 5 days apart. She also did not ask whether the condition of the wife, who was later affected, was more severe or milder than that of her husband.

                        Zhang Zhujun pointed out that environmental samples from the South China seafood market, including the ground, table tops, and gloves, were positive for the new coronavirus, and the samples came from areas where aquatic products were sold.
                        She said that although human-to-human cases of infected couples could not be ruled out at this stage, it is also possible that the husband brought home the virus-carrying items from the market, which polluted the home environment and infected his wife.
                        Wuhan Pneumonia Related Reports:


                        • Source:

                          Wuhan Pneumonia] The Hospital Authority stated that 2 critically ill patients needed external life support treatment
                          January 15, 2020 02:52

                          Lai Weiwen, Chief Infection Control Director of the Hospital Authority, said that all 41 patients in Wuhan had mild to moderate pneumonia, and no symptoms were found but the virus was positive. Lai Weiwen pointed out that 7 to 8 of them were in serious condition, severe patients were aged 40 to 78, and had kidney and liver failure at the same time, and 2 patients needed external life support treatment.

                          Severe patients worsened after more than 10 days. Some patients were found to be infected with other viruses at the same time, and some patients were found to have secondary infections. Local judgments indicate that long-term chronic diseases, elderly people, and obesity are high-risk factors.

                          Lai Weiwen pointed out that a specific rapid test was developed locally, and viruses were found in throat secretion, sputum and blood. The overall number of white blood cells in patients with pneumonia is normal or low, and the lymphocytes are lower than normal. This phenomenon has occurred in other pneumonia. In addition, the lungs of local pneumonia patients will be filled with inflammatory secretions.

                          Patients are treated locally with supportive care, including oxygen and intravenous injections. Early treatment with Tamiflu was used locally, but it was discontinued after it was found not to be flu.
                          Local preaching has a certain degree of utility. No local ribavirin or protease was used.

                          Lai Weiwen pointed out that the discharge conditions for pneumonia patients in Wuhan were more than 10 days of fever reduction, and two samples that were 48 hours apart were negative for the virus. As for the deceased patient who became ill last month and died on January 9th, he is a chronically ill patient because his family objected that no autopsy was performed.


                          • Source:
                            [Wuhan Pneumonia] Hospital Authority: Preliminary observation of steroids helpful in treating pneumonia

                            Lai Weiwen (right). Figure: Star Island

                            [Orange News] Regarding the treatment method for "Wuhan pneumonia", the Chief Infection Control Director of the Hospital Authority Lai Weiwen said that preliminary observation of steroids is helpful for the treatment of related pneumonia. In 41 cases in Wuhan, 2 people needed an external life support device.

                            Lai Weiwen said that the HA will ensure that sufficient equipment is used, and that more than 200 negative pressure beds are available for immediate use. If necessary, patients will be transferred to nursing homes, and ordinary beds in negative pressure facilities will be converted to isolation in stages. Beds, "sorry" to patients and staff for possible service adjustments.

                            He pointed out that the symptoms of confirmed patients in the Mainland were mainly mild to moderate pneumonia, and no cases were found that were asymptomatic but positive for the new virus. There are 8 severe cases temporarily recorded in this outbreak. One of them died. The critically ill patients were 40 to 78 years old and both had kidney or liver failure. Two of them needed ECMO (artificial heart and lung) treatment. The patient's condition was mild. The gap is about 10 days apart. The deceased patient became ill on December 23 and died on January 9. He was a chronically ill patient and did not have a corpse test because his family did not agree.

                            He quoted mainland experts as saying that old age and obesity are high-risk factors. New coronaviruses are usually found in the sputum and blood of diagnosed patients. Although the number of white blood cells is normal or low, the number of lymphocytes will be lower than normal.

                            However, Lai Weiwen pointed out that in the past, the same indicators were found in patients with viral pneumonia such as SARS and New SARS, which are unique to non-Wuhan pneumonia patients. As far as he knows, there is no ribavirin or protease inhibitor used in the treatment of SARS in the Mainland.


                            • hat tip @MarionKoopmans

                              From W.H.O. website:

                              Laboratory diagnostics for novel coronavirus

                              WHO laboratory testing for 2019 novel coronavirus (pdf)
                              587 KB

                              Several assays that detect the novel coronaviruses detected in Wutan, China have been recently developed, or are under development. This page is intended as a resource for laboratories wishing to test for coronavirus using an assay that already has some degree of validation. The protocols or SOPs posted here may be followed to create assays using commercially prepared oligonucleotide primers, probes and controls and paired with appropriate enzymes for reverse transcription real-time PCR. In some cases, the group that posts the protocol may also be willing to send reagents or reagent mixes prepared in their laboratories, with or without associated fees.

                              Assay descriptions posted to this page may detect only the Wuhan strain of coronavirus, and some may also detect other strains (e.g. SARS-CoV) that are genetically similar. Detailed information will be provided on each assay protocol that is posted here. It is strongly recommended to contact the protocol provider institution if you obtain weak positive control results or unusual lab findings.

                              Available protocols in order received. More protocols will be posted when they become available.

                              Diagnostic detection of Wuhan coronavirus 2019 by real-time RT-PCR – Charit?, Berlin Germany (pdf)
                              1535 KB

                              Disclaimer: The order on the list is by country of the hosting institution and does not imply any preference of WHO. Neither the names of vendors or manufacturers included in the protocols are preferred/endorsed by WHO. The protocols have not yet been validated through WHO process.

                              Assumptions: This procedure assumes a basic familiarity with rRT-PCR assays.

                              Safety Information: Specimen processing should be performed in accordance with pertaining national biological safety regulations.

                              Protocol use limitations: Optional clinical specimens for testing has not yet been validated.



                              • China's new SARS-like virus has spread to Thailand, but we still know very little about it

                                Leo Poon, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong who was among the first to decode the SARS coronavirus, said the Thai case suggests two possibilities: the woman was either infected by an animal in another market, or by another person.

                                The first possibility would mean that the source of the new virus is more widespread than authorities previously believed, and the second would indicate its ability to transmit between humans -- which could turn a local outbreak into a global pandemic.

                                "I think the first possibility is more likely," Poon said. "This also reiterates the issue of food safety -- the risk of selling exotic animals in markets should be assessed now and new policy should be established as soon as possible."

                                China -- and the world -- has paid a heavy price for the consumption of wild animals. The SARS epidemic from November 2002 to July 2003 killed 774 people after spreading to 37 countries. The coronavirus was traced to the civet cat, a wild animal considered a delicacy in parts of southern China, where the epidemic began.

                                But Professor Poon and other experts in Hong Kong said the possibility of human-to-human transmission cannot be excluded.