A new type of coronavirus could be responsible for the public health crisis currently affecting China, according to preliminary reports released by the Chinese Communist regime’s news agency, Xinhua.

Coronaviruses—named for the shape of the envelope that surrounds them—can cause a wide range of infections, from the common cold to evolving animal diseases such as the fatal SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed hundreds of people more than a decade ago.

According to BBC microbiologist Xu Jiangua after conducting blood and throat tests on 15 people, the “new coronavirus” could be the cause of the mysterious pneumonia that has struck 59 people in the city of Wuhan, leaving seven in critical condition.

The statements confirmed the World Health Organization‘s suspicions. “Preliminary identification of a novel virus in a short period of time is a notable achievement,” Gauden Galea, WHO representative in China, told AFP.

Although it would still remain “determine the source, modes of transmission, extent of infection and countermeasures implemented,” he concluded.

Transmission through animals

Chinese officials did not report any cases of human-to-human transmission, while the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission reported that the contagion may have been due to exposure to seafood and live animals in a market in this central Chinese city, which has a population of over 11 million.

The outbreak occurred on the eve of the busiest time of year for travel in the Asian giant, as millions of Chinese citizens prepare to take buses, trains and planes to celebrate the Chinese New Year with their families.

Xu, the leader of the group of scientists, said that during the next few weeks they will continue to carry out research to definitively confirm that it is a coronavirus.

The SARS epidemic of Chinese origin

The SARS virus was first discovered in Guangdong Province in 2002, from where it spread to Hong Kong and other cities. 

At least 1,755 Hong Kongers became infected with SARS, of whom about 300 died. Nearly 50 people in neighboring Taiwan also died from the virus, out of more than 300 who contracted the coronavirus.

Worldwide, hundreds of people died in 31 countries, including Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, of the more than 8,000 who contracted SARS.

Public health experts are calling for transparency from Chinese authorities, warning, “Efforts to coverup outbreaks can have serious consequences for disease control for China’s neighboring regions,” NTD News reported.

“In 2002–2003, the Chinese regime covered up the SARS epidemic for weeks before a growing death toll and rumors forced authorities to reveal the truth,” the independent media warned.