According to Japanese health authorities, at least 10 people on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in the port of Yokohama have tested positive for coronavirus.
Almost 300 of the 3,700 people on the cruise ship have been tested so far. The number of infected could rise.
The checks began after an 80-year-old Hong Kong man who had been on the ship last month fell ill with the virus.
Some 3,600 people on a second cruise ship docked in Hong Kong are also being tested.
Chinese health authorities are stepping up efforts to control the spread of the virus, with approximately 18 million people in the east of the country now required to stay at home.
In Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus, 11 large public venues including sports arenas are being turned into makeshift hospitals to provide an additional 10,000 beds for the sick. Two new hospitals have already been built there since the outbreak started.
President Xi Jinping said China’s preventive measures were “achieving a positive effect”, state media reported. He said China was confident and capable of winning the war against the virus, after authorities were criticized for their initial handling of the outbreak.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global health emergency over the outbreak but said it did not yet constitute a “pandemic”, or the worldwide spread of a new disease.
However, the number of cases in China jumped by nearly 4,000 on February 4 alone to more than 24,300, with another 65 deaths bringing the total to 490.
The new coronavirus causes severe acute respiratory infection and symptoms usually start with a fever, followed by a dry cough. Most people infected are likely to fully recover – just as they would from a flu.
There is a much smaller number of cases in countries around the globe other than China – two people outside of mainland China have died of the disease.
The Hong Kong man believed to be the source boarded the cruise ship in Yokohama, Japan, on January 20, and disembarked in Hong Kong on January 25. He was only later found to have tested positive for the virus.
Officials on the cruise ship began screening guests on February 3, and the vessel was placed under quarantine on February 4.
Passengers and crew on the ship will now be under quarantine for 14 days. The incubation period of the virus is believed to be around two weeks.
All 10 cases are in those over the age of 50 and one is in their 80s, Japanese broadcaster NHK said.
Two of them are said to be Japanese, and none are in “serious condition”, it added.
In a public statement on January 31, Health Secretary Alex Azar said US citizens returning from Hubei province would face 14 days of quarantine while those returning from other parts of China would be allowed to monitor their own condition for a similar period.
He told reporters: “Following the World Health Organization decision, I have today declared that the coronavirus represents a public health emergency in the United States.”
Citing the need to relieve pressure on authorities, Alex Azar said that foreign nationals who had travelled in China in the past two weeks would be denied entry to the US.
He added: “The risk of infection for Americans remains low and with these, and our previous, actions we are working to keep the risk low.”
Another confirmed case in the US on January 31 – in California – brought the number there to seven. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said 191 people were under observation for the disease.
The US announcement came as other countries around the world scrambled to contain the spread of the new virus, 2019-nCov.
On January 31, the UK confirmed its first two cases.
Estimates by the University of Hong Kong suggest the true total number of cases could be far higher than official figures suggest. Based on mathematical models of the outbreak, experts there say more than 75,000 people may have been infected in the city of Wuhan alone, where the virus first emerged.
Most cases outside China involve people who have been to Wuhan. Germany, Japan, Vietnam, the US, Thailand and South Korea have reported person-to-person cases – patients being infected by people who had travelled to China.
Meanwhile in Wuhan, voluntary evacuations of hundreds of foreign nationals are under way.
Australia, South Korea, Singapore, New Zealand and the UK are expected to quarantine all evacuees for two weeks to monitor them for symptoms and avoid contagion.
The spread of the deadly coronavirus is accelerating, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned, after holding a special government meeting on the Lunar New Year public holiday.
China is facing a “grave situation” President Xi told senior officials.
The new virus has killed at least 56 people and infected almost 2,000 since its discovery in the city of Wuhan.
Meanwhile, the US has announced that staff at the Wuhan consulate will be evacuated on a special flight on January 28.
According to the State Department, private Americans most at risk will also be able to board the flight to San Francisco.
Meanwhile, UK-based researchers have warned of a real possibility that China will not be able to contain the virus.
Travel restrictions have come in place in several affected cities. From January 26, private vehicles will be banned from central districts of Wuhan, the source of the outbreak.
According to Chinese state newspaper the People’s Daily, a second emergency hospital is to be built there within weeks to handle 1,300 new patients, and will be finished in half a month. It is the second such rapid construction project: work on another 1,000-bed hospital has already begun.
Specialist military medical teams have also been flown into Hubei province, where Wuhan is located.
The urgency reflects concern both within China and elsewhere about the virus which first appeared in December.
Lunar New Year celebrations for the year of the rat, which began on January 25, have been canceled in many Chinese cities.
Across mainland China, travelers are having their temperatures checked for signs of fever, and train stations have been shut in several cities.
Hong Kong has declared the highest level of emergency and school holidays were extended.
Several other nations are each dealing with a handful of cases, with patients being treated in isolation.
A coronavirus is a family of viruses which include the common cold.
However, this virus has never been seen before. It is called 2019-nCov, for “novel coronavirus”.
New viruses can become common in humans after jumping across the species barrier from animals.
The SARS [Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome] outbreak of 2003 started in bats and transferred to the civet cat which passed it on to humans.
This new Chinese virus also causes severe acute respiratory infection.
Symptoms seem to start with a fever, followed by a dry cough and then, after a week, lead to shortness of breath and some patients needing hospital treatment.
There is no specific cure or vaccine.
Based on early information, it is believed that only a quarter of infected cases are “severe”, and the dead are mostly – though not exclusively – older people, some of whom have pre-existing conditions.
The Chinese authorities suspect a seafood market that “conducted illegal transactions of wild animals” was the source of the outbreak.
The new virus discovered in China, known also as 2019-nCoV, is understood to be a new strain of coronavirus that has not previously been identified in humans.
Coronaviruses are a broad family of viruses, but only six (the new one would make it seven) are known to infect people.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised people to avoid “unprotected” contact with live animals, thoroughly cook meat and eggs, and avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.
Signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe disease. It’s not yet clear how bad this new coronavirus is.
If a patient has recovered from the infection, they should not pose a significant risk to others and can be sent home from hospital provided they are well enough.
The first human cases were identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019.
There have not been any other suspected human cases reported prior to this.
Given the type of virus, the incubation period (how long it takes for symptoms to appear after catching the infection) is days, rather than weeks.
It is not yet known how or when the virus became infectious to people.
Experts believe the first cases were transmitted by an animal.
At the moment, there is no vaccine that can protect people against this type of coronavirus, but researchers are looking to develop one.
It is a new strain that hasn’t been seen in humans before, which means doctors still have lots to learn about it.
Based on currently available information, the WHO has not recommended any restrictions on travel or trade.
You should re-check the latest travel advice before you depart.
Extra airport checks such as temperature scans have been put in place to screen some travelers in some countries/states.
Airports in Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo have been screening air passengers from Wuhan and US authorities last week announced similar measures at three major airports in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.
It is not yet known how the virus was transmitted. Other coronaviruses, such as SARS and MERS, came from cats and camels respectively.
Experts are working to find the source.
Standard recommendations to prevent infection apply. These include:
regular hand washing
covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing
thoroughly cooking meat and eggs
Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.