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China warned the deadly Wuhan virus is 'mutating' and could spread further, with over 2,000 people tested after being close to those infected

Sinéad Baker , Business Insider US
 Jan 22, 2020, 02:27 PM
Medical staff transfer patients to Jin Yintan hospital on January 17, 2020 in Wuhan, Hubei, China.
  • China is warning that the mysterious Wuhan virus is mutating, meaning it could spread further and being harder to control.
  • 440 people have now been identified as infected in China, and killed nine people, while cases have been reported in other countries.
  • The director-general of China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention said that the virus is adapting and mutating - making it harder to manage and control.
  • China's National Health Commission said 2,197 people have identified as having been in close contact with people who have the virus, and 1,394 of these are still under observation.
  • For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za 

China's National Health Commission, told reporters on Wednesday that 2,197 people have identified as having been in close contact with people who have the virus.

Chinese authorities warned that the mysterious virus that has killed nine people is appearing to "mutate" and could spread further, with transmission possible from person to person.

Li Bin, the deputy director of China's National Health Commission, told reporters on Wednesday that 2,197 people have identified as having been in close contact with people who have the virus.

He said that 765 of these have now been released from medical observation, and that 1,394 people are still being observed.

Gao Fu, the director-general of China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention, also said on Wednesday that the virus is adapting and mutating - making it harder to manage and control.

It is common for viruses to mutate, but them doing so makes them more dangerous as they may become immune to any treatments designed to tackle them. The flu is an example of a virus that mutates, and that mutation is why different flu vaccines are needed every year.

Li Bin (right), of China's National Health Commission, answers questions from reporters about the Wuhan virus in Beijing on Wednesday.
NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images

"We are still in the process of learning more about this disease," he said.

And Li said on Wednesday that that officials believe the virus is mainly spread "through the respiratory tract" and said "there is possibility of viral mutation and further spread of the disease."

China has identified 440 people known to be infected as of midnight on Tuesday - which means the figure has increased nine-fold in just one week.

The virus, called 2019-nCoV, is a coronavirus - which is one that infects the nose, throat, or sinuses - and has pneumonia-like symptoms.

Li said on Wednesday that the growing number of confirmed cases is at least partly due to greater monitoring efforts and understanding of the virus.

Authorities had confirmed earlier this week that the virus, which has been linked to a market selling animals, can be spread from human to human, despite the earlier belief that humans were only able to catch it from animals.

Some cases of the virus have spread from the city of Wuhan to other parts of China, and cases have also been confirmed in other countries: The US, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, and South Korea.

Other countries have reported suspected cases of the virus.

The World Health Organisation is holding an emergency meeting on Wednesday to determine whether to declare the outbreak a global health emergency.

And fears of a spread has been heightened as hundreds of millions of people prepare to travel throughout China and beyond to mark the major Chinese New Year holiday.

Li said on Wednesday: "Therise in the mobility of the public has objectively increased the risk of the epidemic spreading and the difficulty of prevention and control."

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