The new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that originated in Wuhan, China is likely to be the next global epidemic. It has infected 440 people and claimed nine lives so far.

In addition to Thailand, Japan, and South Korea, Taiwan and the United States had the first confirmed cases of the pneumonia-like virus this week. The Philippines quarantined a five-year-old Chinese boy in the city of Cebu, who tested positive for a still unidentified strain of coronavirus.

Fears have set in as hundreds of millions of Chinese will be traveling both domestically and internationally for the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday, as the World Health Organization raised the possibility of the virus being “sustained human-to-human transmission.”

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has announced a temporary ban on all tour groups from Wuhan today. She urged China to be “open and transparent” about updates on the outbreak and to share correct information with Taiwan.

“Upon our Lunar New Year, I would like to remind people not to panic and to maintain a regular everyday life and manage their own health. The government has utter confidence in epidemic prevention,” Tsai said.

The outbreak is suspected to have started in a Wuhan seafood market where animals were probably also being sold. The virus is similar to a common cold. Symptoms include mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illness, a runny nose, coughing, sore throat, possibly a headache and a moderate fever. It poses a more serious threat to the elderly, the very young and those with a weakened immune system. A handful of coronavirus strains are known to be deadly or to cause complications such as pneumonia or bronchitis.

In 2002, a similar outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) infected 8,098 people and killed 774. For many, the mysterious new virus reminds them of the SARS epidemic, in which China had withheld necessary information from the public.

Taoyuan, Taiwan

A Taiwanese woman in her 50s who had returned to Taiwan after catching a fever in Wuhan tested positive for the virus. The Taiwan Centers for Disease Control confirmed that she had been sent to the hospital immediately after displaying typical symptoms like fever and coughing.

The CDC urged people not to panic, citing that the woman had not entered the community and was quarantined in time. The Taiwanese government has also prepared more than 1,000 beds in isolation wards in case the virus spreads further.

The patient has since received proper medical treatment and her fever is gone, President Tsai said during a Wednesday press conference.

Seattle, United States

Health officials in the U.S. reported on Tuesday that a man who recently returned to Seattle from Wuhan is being hospitalized for the new coronavirus. They claim that he poses no danger to local hospital staff.

U.S officials announced expanded screening at major airports for passengers arriving from Wuhan. Airports in Atlanta and Chicago will be included In addition to New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The CDC believes the risk for the American public is still relatively low.

The WHO will hold an emergency meeting today to discuss the ongoing outbreak and possible measures. Health officials believe there is no reason to panic but urge caution. China's National Health Commission estimated the outbreak to be "preventable and controllable."

Update: Hong Kong might see it's first confirmed case of coronavirus. The local Health Authorities will hold a press conference at 7:30 pm to discuss the case.

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TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee (@thenewslensintl)

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