Beijing: The viral pneumonia outbreak in China caused by a newly-discovered coronavirus similar to the one that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) has claimed its first victim, authorities said.
According to a statement by the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission on Friday, the 61-year-old man was hospitalized with severe pneumonia while suffering from an abdominal tumour and chronic liver disease, although the cause of death was declared to be respiratory and circulatory failure, reports Efe news.
After the completion of lab tests, a total of 41 cases of this mysterious viral pneumonia have been diagnosed.
Two of these patients have been discharged, another seven are in serious condition and one has died.
The rest of the patients were stable and no new cases have been detected among the 739 people who have been in contact with the patients, including 419 members of the medical teams.
According to the commission, no more infections have been detected over the last three days and there is no evidence that there has been any further contagion between humans.
The outbreak has sparked a health panic in China since the pathogen causing it and its origin were unknown.
For many, the situation was reminiscent of 2003, when SARS spread across the country and caused a total of 646 deaths (813 worldwide), according to figures from the World Health Organization.
According to the WHO, between 14 and 15 per cent of SARS cases end in death, while in the case of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), a related disease also caused by a coronavirus, the mortality rate shoots up to 35 per cent.
The symptoms described for Wuhan pneumonia so far are fever and fatigue, accompanied by dry cough and, in many cases, dyspnea (shortness of breath).
The investigation suggests that the current outbreak originated at a fish and seafood market in the city which has been shut down by the authorities.