By Miriam Raftery
January 23, 2020 (San Diego) – A new coronavirus first identified in December in Wuhan, China, a city of 11 million people, is rapidly spreading across the globe, including the first U.S. case diagnosed in a traveler in Washington state this week.
China has shut down travel including planes, trains, buses and ferries among several major cities including Beijing and Wuhan, attempting to quarantine 25 million people, the Washington Post reports.
Guan Yi, a virologist who helped identify the sever acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003, says the epidemic of this newly discovered virus could be 10 times bigger than the SARS outbreak. Comparing it to past outbreaks of other viruses, Guan said that “this time, I’m petrified,” the Washington Post reports.
To date, the new coronavirus has been confirmed in China, the U.S., Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, Macao, Saudi Arabia and South Korea. Officially, Chinese officials report 835 people infected and at least 26 deaths, though experts indicate the number of cases is likely far higher.
In the U.S., all flights from Wuhan are being routed through five airports in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Atlanta, where all passengers are being screened for the disease.
The timing could hardly be worse; the Lunar New Year holiday, a week-long celebration when millions of Chinese travel to their hometowns in what the Washington Post reports is the biggest human migration on the planet, begins this Saturday, January 25.