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The Wall Street Journal reports China Orders City at Center of Virus Outbreak to Shut Public Transport.

Wuhan, the city in central China where a new coronavirus originated, will halt all outbound flights and trains and shut down its public transportation system from Thursday morning, the Chinese government said, a dramatic escalation in China’s battle to contain a pneumonia outbreak that has now killed 17 people.

The lockdown of the city of 11 million will begin at 10 a.m. local time for an indefinite period, China Central Television reported Thursday, the prevention and control center in Wuhan to combat the coronavirus said in a statement. Services of subways, city buses, long-distance coaches and ferries will also be suspended, it said.

Several provinces and territories in China, including Fujian, Anhui, Liaoning and Guizhou, announced their first confirmed infection cases on Wednesday, according to CCTV and local Chinese authorities. The province of Hubei, of which Wuhan is the capital and largest city, late Wednesday reported a total 444 confirmed cases, up from 270 announced the previous day.

The World Health Organization on Wednesday postponed for a day a decision on whether to declare that the outbreak of the new virus constitutes a public-health emergency of international concern.

This week, Zhong Nanshan, one of the country’s best-known epidemiologists, confirmed suspicions that the novel coronavirus was spreading between humans, which would allow the disease to be transmitted among people who don’t interact with any animals. The virus is believed to have spread to humans from animals at the Wuhan market.

Little is known about the new virus, making it more challenging for authorities to figure out the appropriate action to take, experts say. Chinese authorities have yet to determine which animal originally harbored the virus and passed it on to humans, although they have said it was likely a wild animal. They also have yet to announce what they believe is the incubation period for the disease, or the time it takes for infected patients to start showing symptoms.

Little Understood Disease

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Authorities do not know the incubation period which makes it difficult to know how to respond. But we do know the virus spreads easily. One patient in Wuhan infected more than a dozen medical staff.

There is one confirmed case in the US. That person arrived by plane from China.

Potentially everyone on the plane could now be a carrier and we may not know for a week or more.

Fortunately, similar threats in recent memory were more hype than reality. Recall bird flu, swine flu, mad cow disease, and ebola,

Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals such as fruit bats, chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, forest antelope or porcupines found ill or dead or in the rainforest.

It is too early and too little is known about this new virus to know what to make of the threat. But locking down an entire city of 11 million, shows the concern.

Imagine the consequences if all flight in China was grounded.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock