Officials in China are racing to contain the outbreak of a new virus that has left at least nine people dead and sickened more than 400, after it was confirmed the infection can be passed between humans.
The spread of the Wuhan coronavirus virus to Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and now the United States, is now fueling fears of a broader epidemic, as China enters its busiest travel period of the year.
As of Wednesday morning, local time, it has killed nine people and infected a further 440 people across mainland China, according to China’s National Health Commission.
The majority of the cases are in Wuhan, but it’s also been confirmed as far afield as Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Guangdong province, near Hong Kong.
In the coming days, hundreds of millions of Chinese are expected to begin traveling across the country and overseas as the annual Lunar New Year break gets fully underway. Last year, close to 7 million Chinese tourists traveled abroad during the holiday period, according to state media.
Even before cases were detected in other countries, the efforts to contain the Wuhan coronavirus were international. Wuhan alone has connections to dozens of overseas destinations, and Beijing and Shanghai have hundreds more.
Airports across Asia have stepped up temperature screening of incoming passengers, as have several hubs in the US with connections to Wuhan, including New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
With all indications that the virus has a relatively slow incubation time, however, these efforts may be insufficient to stop its spread.
On Tuesday the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that they had activated an emergency response system on Tuesday in response to the Wuhan coronavirus.