Mystery SARS-like virus outbreak in China raises travel concerns

Chinese state media has announced the outbreak of a new type of coronavirus that is causing cases of pneumonia in the nation's Wuhan province. The scientist who led an investigation into the condition, Xu Jianguo, claims the outbreak is resulting from a new version of the virus that differs from the ones behind MERS and SARS, both of which are severe and often deadly conditions.

Coronavirus is a common type of virus; most of the time, it is responsible for mild common colds involving the sinuses and nose. Though the majority of coronaviruses aren't serious, select examples are, including the type that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Disease (SARS).

According to Xinhua Net, a total of 59 coronavirus-related pneumonia cases were reported as of late on Sunday, January 5. Of these 59 cases, Chinese health officials say that seven people are in 'serious condition' and that another eight former patients were cured of the condition before being sent home from the hospital.

The World Health Organization issued a notice about the outbreak on Thursday; it states that gene sequencing was used to determine the unique nature of this virus, praising the speed at which health officials in the nation were able to isolate and identify the cause of the outbreak. Chinese officials ruled out other potential causes behind the pneumonia cases, including avian flu and SARS.

Though the novel coronavirus isolated from this outbreak is described as capable of being severe in nature, Chinese officials say that it does not readily pass from one person to another, meaning that it isn't very contagious. WHO anticipates that additional information about the condition and virus will be made available in the coming weeks, helping shed light on the extent of its transmission.