Prof Jonathan Ball, Professor of Molecular Virology at the University of Nottingham, said: "For a virus outbreak that was identified around a month ago, the number of exported cases and the recent uplift of numbers is concerning; particularly as the suspected source of the outbreak - a fish market that supposedly also traded in live animals - has been closed for some time".
Huanggang is about 35 miles east of Wuhan, a city of 11 million and a major hub for travel, where the new pneumonia-causing coronavirus originated.
The case marked the first to be reported in the US.
World Health Organization issued its evaluation came after Chinese authorities moved to lock down three cities earlier in the day and cancelled major events in the capital, Beijing, during the Lunar New Year holiday period to try to contain the new virus.
Ghebreyesus said that the measure in Wuhan was "strong" but that China would "minimise the chances of this outbreak spreading internationally".
If it does so, it will be the sixth worldwide public health emergency to be declared in the last decade.
According to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Emergency Committee on the new pathogen was still divided over whether the outbreak was a public heath emergency of worldwide concern after meeting for a second time this week.
From 10 a.m. Thursday, all public transportation, including city buses, subways, ferries and long-distance coaches in Wuhan in central China have been suspended, and outbound channels at airports and railway stations have also been closed until further notice. Deciding whether an outbreak amounts to an global crisis therefore can also be politically fraught. "So they recognize that", he said.
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Fears of a pandemic initially spooked markets but they regained their footing on Wednesday, with investors citing the robust response from authorities as reassuring.
However, there are several coronaviruses with similar genetic sequences, including MERS and SARS, and symptoms reported by the patient may be mistaken for another illness.
There is no known cure for the virus. A sixth has tested negative for the virus and has been discharged from hospital.
"We know that among those infected, one quarter of patients have experienced severe disease", he said on Thursday, adding most of those killed by the virus had underlying health conditions, like hypertension, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease - conditions that weakened the immune system.
The researchers in the new study said recombination within the viral receptor-binding protein may have allowed for cross-species transmission from snake to humans.
According to Wilfrid Laurier University professor and virologist Stephanie DeWitte-Orr, another factor that has made it hard for Canada and other countries to detect the virus is its long incubation period, which can range anywhere between one and two weeks.