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WHO warns NEW coronavirus linked to lethal SARS bug could be behind Chinese pneumonia flare-up

WHO warns NEW coronavirus linked to lethal SARS bug could be behind Chinese pneumonia flare-up
A newly emerging virus related to the deadly SARS pathogen could be propelling a sudden outbreak of pneumonia in China, where dozens have suffered extreme illness in recent weeks, according to the UN’s health agency.

The spate of severe pneumonia cases may be linked to a family of microbes known as “coronaviruses,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday, adding that it would need to collect more data to confirm the suspicion.

“The initial information about the cases of pneumonia in Wuhan ... pointed to a coronavirus as a possible pathogen causing this cluster,” the WHO said in a statement, referring to a city in eastern China where 59 cases of pneumonia have been observed in the last month.

Coronaviruses encompass a wide range of ailments, from the common cold all the way to SARS, the deadly respiratory disease which swept dozens of countries in a series of flare-ups in the early 2000s.

Also on rt.com China launches probe into mysterious viral pneumonia amid rumors of SARS 2.0

Though Chinese researchers have ruled out SARS in the recent outbreak – as well as bird flu, adenovirus and other common respiratory infections – the WHO said a “novel coronavirus” currently unknown to science could instead be at work. Unlike SARS, which spreads with relative ease, Chinese scientists say the new bug does not appear to be exceptionally contagious, one sign that another culprit is behind the upsurge in pneumonia.

The same illness may have also spread to Hong Kong and South Korea, with similar reports of respiratory infections from people who recently traveled to Wuhan. Fifteen such patients are now being treated in Hong Kong, with only one known case in South Korea.

Because of the rash of infections, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert on Wednesday urging physicians around the world to watch out for the novel coronavirus, especially in patients exhibiting pneumonia-like symptoms.

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