BEIJING (AP) — A preliminary investigation into viral pneumonia illnesses sickening dozens of people in and around China has identified the possible cause as a new type of coronavirus, state media said Thursday.
Chinese health authorities did not immediately conform the report from state broadcaster CCTV.
Coronaviruses are spread through coughing or sneezing or by touching an infected person. Some cause the common cold and others can lead to more severe respiratory diseases, such as SARS and MERS.
The novel coronavirus is different from those that have previously been identified, CCTV said.
As of Sunday, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said 59 people in the central Chinese city were being treated for the respiratory illness. Seven were in critical condition, while the rest were stable.
Laboratory experts as of Wednesday evening had found the novel coronavirus in 15 of those cases, CCTV said, adding that more research must be done before a conclusion is reached.
Possible cases of the same illness have been reported in Hong Kong and South Korea involving recent travelers to China.
The 2002-2003 SARS epidemic started in southern China and killed more than 700 people in mainland China, Hong Kong and elsewhere. The new illnesses had raised fears of a SARS recurrence.
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