A woman leaves the Wuhan Medical Treatment Centre, where a man who died from a respiratory illness was confined, in the city of Wuhan, Hubei province, on January 12, 2020.

  • China is stepping up its efforts to stop the spread of a mysterious, deadly virus as millions of people prepare to travel to celebrate Chinese New Year.
  • The 2019-nCoV respiratory virus has caused three deaths, but not much is known about it.
  • The virus has already spread with a few cases recorded in other parts in China and in other countries, but China said it will introduce "prevention and control measures" to stop it spreading during the major holiday.
  • Academics in the UK say that the virus has likely already affected 35 times more people than the number Chinese authorities have identified, and some US airports are screening Chinese passengers for symptoms.
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China is increasing measures to stop the spread of a mysterious, deadly virus that originated in the city of Wuhan as millions of people prepare to travel around the country to mark the Chinese New Year.

Chinese officials have confirmed an illness, called 2019-nCoV, that has pneumonia-like symptoms, but little else is known about the virus. It has been identified as a strain of coronavirus - which is one that infects the nose, throat, or sinuses - and is similar to SARS.

Three people are known to have been killed by the virus so far.

China's National Health Commission said on Sunday that it will "step up our guard" and bring in new "control measures" in advance of the huge celebration, a major holiday that's referred to as the "world's largest annual human migration."

It did not specify any exact steps that are being taken.

According to Reuters, the commission said: "Our commission will step up our guard during the Spring Festival, pay close attention to the development and change of the epidemic, and direct the implementation of prevention and control measures."

It added that that it believes the outbreak can be controlled, Reuters reported. According to the BBC, it said on Sunday that the virus is "still preventable and controllable."

But the BBC reported that China has confirmed cases outside of Wuhan, including two in Beijing and one in Shenzen, and cases have also been confirmed abroad.

And the spread comes before millions of people are expected to travel to mark Chinese New Year - a weeks-long event that authorities estimate causes people to take three billion trips across the country.

Academics in the UK say that the virus has likely already affected 35 times more people than the number Chinese authorities have identified.

The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China, which is thought to be where the virus originated.

Public health officials in Wuhan said on Saturday that 45 people have been infected with 2019-nCov, but an analysis from Imperial College London said the number of people that had been people infected as of January 12 was likely around 1,723.

On Sunday, Wuhan authorities said 136 new cases had been confirmed over the weekend.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is screening passengers arriving at three US airports - San Francisco International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), and New York's JFK International Airport - from Wuhan for signs of the virus.

Medical staff members carry a patient into the Jinyintan hospital, where patients infected by a mysterious SARS-like virus are being treated, in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on January 18, 2020.

Four cases of the virus have been confirmed abroad: One in Japan, two in Thailand, and one in South Korea.

Health officials believe the virus originated in a seafood market in Wuhan, and that most, if not all, of those infected had been near the market.

But the World Health Organization said it believed there had been "some limited human-to-human transmission occurring between close contacts".

"As more… cases are identified and more analysis undertaken, we will get a clearer picture of disease severity and transmission patterns," it tweeted.

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