China warns deadly virus could mutate and spread as death toll rises

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China has warned that a SARS-like virus that has killed nine people, infected around 440 and spread to other countries could mutate.

The warning came as authorities scrambled to contain the disease during the Lunar New Year travel season.

The new coronavirus has caused alarm for its similarity to SARS, which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

The illness is transmitted via the respiratory tract and there “is the possibility of viral mutation and further spread of the disease,” National Health Commission vice minister Li Bin said.

The World Health Organization is to hold an emergency meeting today to determine whether to declare a rare global public health emergency over the disease.

-Noah Harte