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China Quarantines Wuhan Amid Coronavirus Outbreak: Reports

The Chinese government has quarantined the city of Wuhan and plans to shut down the airport and public transportation within hours amid an outbreak of the coronavirus, according to reports on the country’s social networks. The virus has been linked to at least 17 deaths and has sickened over 500 others.

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Other countries’ health agencies and governing bodies have issued warnings to travelers including the U.K., which advised against “all but essential travel” to Wuhan, which is where the virus was first detected. Several countries have implemented enhanced screening measures at airports for flights arriving from the Wuhan region as China faces scrutiny over what officials knew about the outbreak and when they discovered it.

For weeks the country’s health officials maintained that the number of people infected remained at 41, with minimal fatalities, but as more cases emerged and the death toll spiked fears of a cover-up began to surface. Top officials in China have reportedly warned lower-level officials to not cover up the spread of the virus, which is now said to be transmissible between humans.

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Any lower-level officials who attempt to conceal new cases would be “nailed on the pillar of shame for eternity,” officials with the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, a top political body in the country that handles law and order, allegedly said, according to the BBC. 

The call for transparency follows the country’s botched handling of the SARS virus in 2002-2003, which infected 8,000 and killed at least 770. At the time, officials were accused of covering up the virus, which was not announced to the public until about five months after it was detected.

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Five other countries, including the U.S., have reported cases of the coronavirus, which is said to cause fever, cough, and shortness of breath in patients. On Wednesday, the National Institutes of Health confirmed to Fox News that it was in the “very early stages of developing” a vaccine to combat the virus.

Fox News’ Madeline Farber contributed to this report.