China on Monday reported a mysterious SARS-like virus had spread across the country, including to Beijing, raising concerns as millions begin trips for the Lunar New Year.
A third person was confirmed to have died, authorities said, as nearly 140 cases were announced.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said the number of cases rose because of “increased searching and testing”.
It said an “animal source seems the most likely source” of the virus, while there was “some limited human-to-human transmission occurring between close contacts.”
It added that people could reduce the risk of catching the coronavirus by taking measures such as avoiding “unprotected” contact with live animals, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs, and avoiding close contact with anyone with colds or flu-like symptoms.
The new coronavirus strain has caused alarm because of its connection to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
In Wuhan, the central city where the coronavirus was first discovered, 136 new cases were found over the weekend, the local health commission said, without giving details about the person who died.
Health authorities in Beijing’s Daxing district said two people who had travelled to Wuhan were treated for pneumonia linked to the virus and are in stable condition.
In Guangdong, a 66-year-old Shenzhen man was quarantined on January 11 after contracting a fever and showing other symptoms following a trip to visit relatives in Wuhan, the provincial health commission said in a statement.
A total of 201 people have now been diagnosed with the virus in China. In Wuhan, 170 people are still being treated at hospital, including nine in critical condition, the city health commission said.
Wuhan is a city of 11 million inhabitants that serves as a major transport hub, including during the annual Lunar New Year holiday when hundreds of millions of Chinese people travel across the country to visit family.