The total number of coronavirus cases grew as of Friday, with at least 26 people dead and more than 900 people around the world sickened. The majority of cases are in mainland China, with 916 sick.
The previously unknown, flu-like coronavirus strain is believed to have emerged from an animal market in central Wuhan city. A group of scientists said earlier this week that snakes, particularly the Chinese krait and the Chinese cobra, may be the original source of the virus. But officials from the World Health Organization cast doubt on that theory Thursday, saying there is “no conclusive evidence” at the moment.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that usually infect animals but can sometimes evolve and spread to humans. Symptoms in humans include fever, coughing and shortness of breath, which can progress to pneumonia.
Local authorities in China have quarantined the cities of Wuhan and Huanggang, which have a combined population of 17 million. Travel bans were in effect Friday for at least 10 cities, including Wuhan, where the virus was first identified, and Huanggang.
WHO declined for a second day Thursday to formally designate the new virus as a global health emergency, after postponing its decision the day before. The organization is not recommending any broader restrictions on travel or trade at this time. Physicians recommended basic hygiene, including washing hands with soap and water and avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth.
— Reporting by Berkeley Lovelace Jr.; data visualization by John Schoen.