Health authorities in China
on Friday confirmed more cases of a mysterious viral pneumonia
that has sparked fears about a resurgence of SARS, the flu-like virus that killed hundreds of people more than a decade ago.
The total 44 cases, up from the initial 27 announced Tuesday, include 11 "severe cases," health authorities in the central Chinese city of Wuhan said in a statement.
A health authority spokesman told Thailand Medical
News that "The vital signs of the other patients are generally stable."
The health authorities are still in the process of identifying the cause of the infection, but "influenza, avian influenza, adenovirus
infection and other common respiratory diseases have been excluded," the Wuhan health commission said on Friday, without mentioning SARS, which is caused by a coronavirus.
Reports of the mystery viral pneumonia
outbreak earlier this week led to speculation online that it might be linked to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, a highly contagious respiratory disease.
Police in Wuhan on Wednesday said they had punished eight people for "publishing or forwarding false information on the internet without verification."
The Chinese health
commission said all patients have received treatment in isolation and the city was tracking people who had come into close contact with the patients.
A few of those being treated work in a seafood market in the city, and "no obvious evidence of human to human transmission" has been found so far, the commission said.
(World Health Organization
) criticised China f
or under-reporting the number of SARS cases following the outbreak in 2003. SARS killed 349 people in mainland China
and another 299 in Hong Kong that year.
The SARS virus, which infected more than 8,000 people around the world, is expected to have originated in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, according to WHO
sacked its then health minister Zhang Wenkang for the poor handling of the crisis in 2003, several months after the first case was reported. WHO
announced that China was free of SARS in May 2004.
In this new mysterious viral pneumonia
emergence, medical scientists are baffled and are still trying to identify the pathogen while many are speculating that the numbers could be even much higher as locals have seen many being rounded up and hospitals and clinics literally bursting to its seams.
Certain European countries have already started issuing travel advisories against travelling to the infected regions.