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Security guards patrol outside the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan. -AFP
Security guards patrol outside the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan. -AFP

SEVERAL people who died from a new virus in China didn’t display symptoms of fever, potentially complicating global efforts to check for infected travellers by temperature screening at airports and other travel hubs.

The Hubei Health Commission said on Friday that seven more people had died in the central Chinese province from the coronavirus infection. Six died in Wuhan and the other death was in Yichang, which is about 200 miles away from the provincial capital and epicentre of the outbreak.

Of the 24 people who’ve died in total in Hubei, seven had symptoms other than fever, such as breathing difficulty, chest tightness and coughing.

“If this virus can be transmitted without causing fever, then it’s easier for the infection to travel globally because it can simply stay under the radar for a while,” said Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of the Centre for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy in Washington, D.C.

The Hubei Health Commission said there were 105 new cases, taking the total to 830, including 495 in Wuhan. Thirty-one people have been cured, though many are being treated in hospitals and are critically ill, the department said. The youngest victim was a 36-year-old male who was admitted to hospital on Jan 9 suffering from fever and fatigue. He died on Thursday.

Elsewhere in China, Guangdong province in the south on Friday reported 53 confirmed coronavirus cases, including at least one 10-year-old child. The National Health Commission also said there had been a death in Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing, though it didn’t provide details of the symptoms.

At least nine victims in Hubei had pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, coronary artery disease and Parkinson’s disease, the National Health Commission said. Ten were aged 80 or over, four were in their seventies, seven in their sixties, one in his fifties and another was 48. Eight of the victims in the province were women and the rest were men.

China has imposed travel bans in some affected areas, essentially putting millions of people under lockdown. The virus has spread to places including the US and Hong Kong, triggering memories of the SARS pandemic in 2003 that killed nearly 800 people.

Lunar New Year holidays began in earnest on Friday, heaping pressure on Chinese authorities trying to contain the virus as hundreds of millions of people travel to their hometowns in the biggest migration of humans on the planet.

The World Health Organization on Thursday said the outbreak hadn’t yet become a global health emergency, but that it was closely monitoring the situation. – Bloomberg

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