Jan. 21, 2020 -- The leader of a Chinese government team of experts announced Monday that human-to-human transmission of a new coronavirus has been confirmed, the Associated Press reported.The finding could raise fears that the infection might not require contact with infected animals to occur, and could spread among people more rapidly.
According to the AP, research team leader Zhong Nashan, a respiratory expert, said that two people in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong caught the virus from family members. Some medical workers also appear to have contracted the virus from patients, the China Daily newspaper said.
Also on Monday, China reported a surge in the number of people infected with the coronavirus, including the first cases to arise in the capital, Beijing.
According to the Associated Press, authorities say the total number of cases has now topped 200. A third person has died from the illness in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the outbreak started.
Chinese state media said that two cases have been reported in Beijing and one in the southern city of Shenzen. In Wuhan, cases now total 198, with 136 new cases being reported.
The infection is thought to have originated in a Wuhan seafood market, which has been closed for an investigation, the AP said.
The coronavirus is spreading to neighboring countries, with three cases having arisen in Japan and Thailand. The first case diagnosed in South Korea was also announced on Monday.
To help stem the virus' spread, airports in at least six Asian countries have begun screening incoming passengers from central China, and on Friday U.S. authorities said similar measures are being taken at airports serving San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City.
Speaking on Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, Li Gang, director and chief physician of the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said that "the infectivity of the new coronavirus is not strong." Infectivity means the rapidity of the virus' spread between individuals.
This "does not rule out the possibility of limited human-to-human transmission, but the risk of continuous human-to-human transmission is low," Li said. "With the implementation of our various prevention and control measures, the epidemic can be prevented and controlled."