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Deadly Coronavirus Spreads

More than 400 people have been infected by the Wuhan coronavirus from China, at least 17 have died, and travelers have carried the virus to at least four other countries, including the United States.

Airports around the world are increasing health screenings and implementing new quarantine procedures as officials attempt to slow the spread of the virus, a new SARS-like illness that was first reported a few weeks ago in China's Hubei province.

Hundreds of people have been infected by the coronavirus in mainland China. Thailand, South Korea, and Japan have also reported cases, and the United States has one confirmed case. Chinese health officials have confirmed some cases involved human-to-human transmission.

On Wednesday, experts at the World Health Organization plan to meet to consider declaring the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. Such a classification could potentially require a coordinated international response.

With China's Lunar New Year/Spring Festival travel rush now underway, the battle against further virus transmission could be challenging. According to industry data, Wuhan Airport services nonstop scheduled passenger flights to 109 destinations in 20 countries. These include major cities like London, Moscow, Paris, Rome, New York, San Francisco, Bangkok, Tokyo, and Seoul. Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, is also a hub for China's high-speed rail network.

Some countries have already begun screening travelers from China for fever and cough. U.S. airports in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco started to screen arriving flights from Wuhan last week, and airports in Atlanta and Chicago will begin doing so this week.

The new infection is caused by a coronavirus from the same family that caused the outbreaks of SARS and MERS in recent years, killing hundreds of people in dozens of countries.

Scientist Leo Poon, who first decoded the virus, said he thinks it likely started in an animal and spread to humans. "What we know is it causes pneumonia and then doesn't respond to antibiotic treatment," Poon, a virologist at the School of Public Health at The University of Hong Kong, told CNN.

For more information on pandemic preparedness and the SARS epidemic, see the Security Management article "It’s Time to Plan."