KILLER BUG Coronavirus death toll DOUBLES, cases ‘mutating’ bug confirmed


SEVENTEEN people have died from coronavirus as more than 500 cases of the killer strain were confirmed, officials have said.

Latest figures reveal 471 cases inChina, with four in Thailand, two in Hong Kong and one each in the US, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.

 Passengers arrive into Heathrow on a flight from Wuhan, where the virus started

Passengers arrive into Heathrow on a flight from Wuhan, where the virus startedCredit: Ian Whittaker.

 Enhanced monitoring is in place for direct flights from Wuhan to the UK

Enhanced monitoring is in place for direct flights from Wuhan to the UKCredit: Ian Whittaker.

 Seventeen people have died from coronavirus and more than 470 cases of the killer strain have been confirmed in China alone

Seventeen people have died from coronavirus and more than 470 cases of the killer strain have been confirmed in China alone

 A Chinese hospital has released first pictures of doctors treating patients who have been struck down by a new deadly virus

A Chinese hospital has released first pictures of doctors treating patients who have been struck down by a new deadly virusCredit: Wuhan Central Hospital/Weibo

 Staff at Central Hospital of Wuhan were pictured with clenched fists

Staff at Central Hospital of Wuhan were pictured with clenched fistsCredit: Wuhan Central Hospital/Weibo

There is also unconfirmed reports of a case in Mexico.

It comes as British experts said up to 10,000 people could already be infected - adding that we can't rule out the possibility" there could already be a case in the UK.

Professor Neil Ferguson, an expert at Imperial College London, said the new strain is currently"as deadly as the Spanish flu epidemic".

The 1918 outbreak is the most severe pandemic in recent history, wiping out an estimated 50 million people across the world.

Prof Ferguson warned of "more deaths to come" as fellow experts said the outbreak has reached the threshold for an international public health emergency - ahead of today's World Health Organization meeting on the issue.

The agency could declare the virus a global health crisis today as its experts rallied to hold an emergency meeting in Geneva today.

'THOUSANDS COULD BE INFECTED'

Officials are considering putting Wuhan - a city of 11 million, a larger population than London - on lockdown, with people being told to stop travelling and to avoid crowds.

It comes at one of the busiest times of the year in China as people prepare to celebrate the Lunar New Year holidays.

The '2019-nCoV' strain has spread to other countries and major cities including Beijing, Shanghai and southern Guangdong province.

Taiwan and the US were the latest countries to confirm a case of the lethal SARS-like virus - after Australian officials said a man tested amid fears he picked up the bug in China was clear.

The new strain has also hit South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong, Macau with the World Health Organization predicting it will continue to cross international borders in the coming days.

It comes as Chinese officials confirmed 'novelcoronavirus'- which causes pneumonia -can be passedfrom person to person.

 The patient being taken inside the hospital by a hazmat wearing medic

The patient being taken inside the hospital by a hazmat wearing medic

 Thai medical staff transferring a Thai 70-year-old patient, who is suspected of being coronavirus infected after traveling back from China's Wuhan

Thai medical staff transferring a Thai 70-year-old patient, who is suspected of being coronavirus infected after traveling back from China's WuhanCredit: EPA

 A nurse checks a patient's body temperature next to a campaign poster alerting on the coronavirus at a hospital in Bangkok, Thailand

A nurse checks a patient's body temperature next to a campaign poster alerting on the coronavirus at a hospital in Bangkok, ThailandCredit: EPA

 Paramilitary police at Hongqiao station in Shanghai

Paramilitary police at Hongqiao station in ShanghaiCredit: EPA

Chinese officials confirmed 471 known cases earlier today, adding another 2,197 people are in isolation after coming into contact with infected people.

So far 765 of those have been released from observation, Li Bin said, adding there is mounting evidence that the bug is being spread through "respiratory transmission".

Li said: "Recently there has been a big change in the number of cases, which is related to our deepening our understanding of the disease, improving diagnostic methods and optimising the distribution of diagnostic kits."

Fifteen healthcare professionals are among those infected.

 Officials last night stepped up checks at Heathrow as the death toll doubled in a day to 17

Officials last night stepped up checks at Heathrow as the death toll doubled in a day to 17Credit: Ian Whittaker.

 Health officials watch travellers on a thermographic monitor at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia

Health officials watch travellers on a thermographic monitor at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in MalaysiaCredit: AP:Associated Press

 The airport checks were put in place after it was revealed the virus had jumped borders

The airport checks were put in place after it was revealed the virus had jumped bordersCredit: AP:Associated Press

 Chinese people wear masks in the street of the capital Beijing

Chinese people wear masks in the street of the capital BeijingCredit: EPA

The mayor of Wuhan confirmed yesterday that an 89-year-old man from the city had become the fourth victim.

A 66-year-old man, known only as Li, and a woman, 48, known as Yin were also confirmed to have died from multiple organ failure.

In Taiwan yesterday, an epidemic response command centre has been set up with more than 1,000 beds prepared in isolation wards in case the virus spreads further.

There, health officials confirmed a woman, thought to be in her 50s, had caught the new strain.

She is currently in hospital and receiving treatment, according to local media reports.

So far, the WHO has not advised travel or trade restrictions but could put such measures in place at tomorrow's emergency meeting.

TRAVEL THREAT

It comes as China faces its busiest travel period over Chinese New Year - a time when millions board trains and planes to celebrate the Lunar New Year holidays.

Speaking on LBC leading virologist Professor John Oxford, from Queen Mary College, said he was "quaking in my shoes" at the potential for spread over the holidays.

He said: "None of us have faced a new virus with so many people in a community travelling around.

"That's what's going to happen in China at the end of the week.

"Once they are close together in taxis or small rooms, then there may be a problem.

"The only way to stop it is physical cleaning and social distance - keeping away from people."

WhileNHS chiefs have urged doctors in the UK to be alert to signs of the killer virus, and screening is due to begin at Heathrow airport, they said today the threat to Brits is "low".

GLOBAL AIRPORT SCREENING

At least half a dozen Asian countries and three US airports have started screening incoming airline passengers from central China.

In Australia, border forces have been ordered to ensure all sick passengers are assessed by a trained Biosecurity officer on arrival.

Chief health officer Brendan Murphy said the risk was low but added the three daily flights from Wuhan will be met by medics in response to the "rapidly emerging situation".

State health officials in New South Wales are distributing pamphlets in English and Chinese to all passengers arriving from Wuhan describing the symptoms.

 Passengers at Hongqiao Railway Station in Shanghai wearing masks as peak spring festival travel period gets underway

Passengers at Hongqiao Railway Station in Shanghai wearing masks as peak spring festival travel period gets underwayCredit: EPA

 Health officials wear face masks at an inspection at Kuala Lumpur International Airport

Health officials wear face masks at an inspection at Kuala Lumpur International AirportCredit: AP:Associated Press

 A traveller wears a face mask as he sits in a waiting room at the Beijing West Railway Station

A traveller wears a face mask as he sits in a waiting room at the Beijing West Railway StationCredit: AP:Associated Press

The US has also started screening passengers on flights from Wuhan arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport, San Francisco International Airport and Los Angeles International airport.

Other international airports are also screening passengers for the mysterious SARS-like disease after it was revealed it had jumped China’s borders.

A video has been shared widely on Twitter showing people on a domestic flight out of the central Chinese city of Wuhan having their temperature taken one-by-one by people in protective suits.

The origin of the virus is not get known, but experts say the most likely source is an animal - with a new studysuggesting bats might be the primary source.

Chinese officials have linked the outbreak last month to a seafood market in the city of Wuhan.

The new strain belongs to a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

ANIMAL SOURCE

The common early signs of infection include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties, according to WHO.

In more severe cases, it can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

Initial symptoms of the novel coronavirus include fever, cough, tightness of the chest and shortness of breath, and those seriously ill developed pneumonia.

BUG UNLEASHED

Fears of coronavirus spread as Chinese New Year sparks THREE BILLION trips

A Brit on holiday in Thailand isfeared to be the first western victim of the illness.

Ash Shorley, 32, was rushed to hospital after the bug infected both lungs while he was on Koh Phi Phi island in Thailand.

The outbreak has caused alarm because of its connection to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

Coronaviruses cause diseases ranging from the common cold to more severe ones such as SARS.

The Chinese government initially tried to conceal the severity of that epidemic but its cover-up was exposed by a high-ranking physician.

What is coronavirus?

Coronavirus is an airborne virus, spread in a similar way to colds and the flu.

The virus attacks the respiratory system, causing lung lesions.

Symptoms include a runny nose, headache, cough and fever, shortness of breath, chills and body aches.

It is incredibly contagious and is spread through contact with anything the virus is on as well as infected breath, coughs or sneezes.

Symptoms include a runny nose, headache, cough and fever, shortness of breath, chills and body aches.

In most cases, you won't know whether you have a coronavirus or a different cold-causing virus, such as rhinovirus.

But if a coronavirus infection spreads to the lower respiratory tract (your windpipe and your lungs), it can cause pneumonia, especially in older people, people with heart disease or people with weakened immune systems.

There is no vaccine for coronavirus.

In 2003 an outbreak of a similar virus, SARS, infected more than 8,000 people in 37 countries before it was brought under control, killing 800 of those worldwide.