The World Health Organization (WHO) fears that the mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has infected more than 50 individuals from the central Chinese city of Wuhan could possibly be brought by the virus that was responsible for the SARS and MERS virus, officials said on Wednesday.
While the organization also said that further investigation is needed to confirm what type of pathogen has infected some Chinese citizens, they also believe that a new form of coronavirus is a considerable possibility.
Coronavirus is a family of highly infectious viruses that causes infection ranging from simple common colds to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Some of the virus types cause less severe disease, while some — like the one that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) — are far more severe.
“The initial information about the cases of pneumonia in Wuhan … pointed to a coronavirus as a possible pathogen causing this cluster,” the WHO said in a statement.
Officials further said that laboratory tests conducted by Chinese authorities have ruled out SARS coronavirus and the MERS one as possible causes, as well as flu, bird flu, adenovirus, and other common respiratory pathogens. This means that “a novel coronavirus could not be ruled out.” WHO notes that some forms of coronavirus appear periodically.
Fifty-nine cases have already been confirmed since the outbreak started last month, Chinese authorities reported Sunday.