In Brief

New SARS-Like Virus in China May Spread Between People in Limited Cases

A woman walks in front of a closed seafood market in Wuhan, China. Officials believe the market is linked with an outbreak of pneumonia caused by a new virus.
A woman walks in front of a closed seafood market in Wuhan, China. Officials believe the market is linked with an outbreak of pneumonia caused by a new virus. (Image credit: NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images)

The new virus in China that's causing an outbreak of pneumonia may be able to spread between people under certain circumstances, although the risk of such transmission appears to be low, according to news reports.

So far, the virus — a new type of coronavirus — has sickened at least 41 people in the Chinese city of Wuhan and has been linked to one death, according to the World Health Organization (WHO)

Investigation into how the virus is spread is ongoing, but "from the information that we have, it is possible that there is limited human-to-human transmission, potentially among families," Maria Van Kerkhove, acting head of WHO's emerging diseases unit, said in a news conference, according to Reuters. "But it is very clear right now that we have no sustained human-to-human transmission."

Many of those infected had either worked at or frequently visited a seafood market in Wuhan. But there is evidence that one woman may have caught the virus from her husband, according to CBS News. In that case, the woman's husband was a worker at the market and got sick with the virus. Some days later, the woman fell ill as well, even though she did not visit the market. This suggests that the husband may have passed the virus to her, Chinese officials said.

Still, it's important to note that hundreds of people, including health care workers, have been in close contact with infected patients without contracting the virus, CBS News reported. 

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause respiratory illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This family includes the viruses that cause SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), as well as viruses that cause milder illnesses, like the common cold.

The new virus, known for now as 2019-nCoV, was first identified on Jan. 7, about a week after officials first reported a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, WHO said.

Recently, officials reported the first "exported" case of the virus in Thailand. In that case, a resident of Wuhan got on a direct flight to Thailand along with several members of her family and a tour group, according to WHO. When the 61-year-old woman arrived at the airport, she was found to have a fever, and she was taken to the hospital where she tested positive for 2019-nCoV. The woman is now recovering, and officials continue to investigate the case.

Originally published on Live Science. 

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.

  • Observer
    Its interesting to see what we were being told by China in January 2020.

    This was written on the 15th January 2020 by which stage the police censored Whistleblower Dr Li was in hospital in quarantine with Covid-19.

    On 8 January, Whistleblower Dr. Li Wenliang contracted COVID-19 unwittingly while treating an infected patient at his hospital

    On 12 January, Dr. Li Wenliang was admitted to intensive care at Houhu Hospital District, Wuhan Central Hospital,where he was quarantined and treated.
    Dr. Li Wenliang died on the 7th Feb
    The livescience post was very good and shows why we need to learn from history about the way countries, leaders and people behave.

    We cannot afford to wait we need to live in the now and see action and change in China, our own countries and ourselves now.

    Dont forget the Whistle-giver Dr Ai Fen she disappeared, now is no longer working and appears to have serious health problems. Some reports link the health issues to indirect Chinese Government action