Lethal SARS-linked coronavirus claims first life as China’s pneumonia outbreak infects dozens

A novel virus sweeping across China has inflicted its first casualty, suggesting the brand new bug could potentially rival its microbial cousin – SARS – in lethality. Health officials are now scrambling to combat the outbreak.

The bug’s first fatality was reported in the city of Wuhan early on Saturday, by Chinese state media, which offered few details beyond the death itself. Unknown to science when it first emerged on the scene, the coronavirus has hit Wuhan hardest, where it rapidly spread to at least confirmed 59 patients, seven of whom are now in critical condition.

While the World Health Organization first suggested earlier this week that a SARS-like coronavirus could be driving a spate of severe pneumonia cases – Chinese scientists have now confirmed that suspicion.

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Chinese health officials have moved to shut down a number of open air markets and other public meeting places identified as epicenters for the virus, fearing they would aid in spreading it to other parts of the country.

Several other suspected cases of the illness have also been observed in both Hong Kong and South Korea, many of them involving people who recently traveled to Wuhan.

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