China reports second death in coronavirus outbreak

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Authorities monitor passengers arriving from Wuhan. 

Authorities monitor passengers arriving from Wuhan.  (AP photo)

A second person has died from a new form of coronavirus in central China, health authorities said.

A 69-year-old man surnamed Xiong fell ill with the respiratory condition on Dec. 31, according to a statement late Thursday from the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission. He passed away Wednesday (Jan. 15).

Xiong exhibited abnormal renal function, severe impairment in multiple organs, inflammation of the heart muscle and other pressing conditions when he was admitted to the hospital. It was not clear from the commission's statement whether these were preexisting issues or consequences of the viral pneumonia.

In total, 41 people in Wuhan have been diagnosed with a novel coronavirus, a family of viruses that can cause both the common cold and more severe diseases like SARS and MERS. As of late Thursday, 12 patients have been cured and discharged and five were being treated for acute conditions.

Xiong's is the second death associated with the current outbreak. Last Saturday, a 61-year-old man who had previously been diagnosed with abdominal tumors and chronic liver disease succumbed to the virus.

Authorities have tracked more than 700 people who were in close contact with infected patients. Among them, no related cases have been found. However, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said earlier this week that limited human-to-human transmission cannot be ruled out, as it revealed one case where a woman may have contracted the virus from her husband.

The Chinese government is keen to avoid a repeat of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. The SARS epidemic began in southern China in late 2002, then spread to more than two dozen countries, killing nearly 800 people.

Most of the coronavirus patients this time either worked at or visited a particular seafood market in Wuhan. The market has since been shut down for investigation and disinfection.

One patient in Thailand and another in Japan have been diagnosed with the virus.

The Japanese man developed a fever and cough on Jan. 3 while in Wuhan, returned to Japan on Jan. 6, and was hospitalized four days later as the symptoms persisted, with his X-ray image showing signs of pneumonia, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said Thursday.