Never-before-seen virus could be cause of pneumonia outbreak in China

A strain of viral pneumonia that causes troubled breathing and invasive lung lesions has affected at least 59 people in China. It's suspected that the culprit is a never-before-seen virus that infected humans who visited an unsanitary wild animal market, reports The Washington Post. It's not yet known if the disease can pass from human to human.

Since mid-December, 59 people have been diagnosed with viral pneumonia of "unknown cause" — including seven who are critically ill, according to Wuhan's health commission. The officials said an additional 163 people who have come into close contact with the infected have been placed under close observation. No deaths have been reported.

Several of the patients worked at Wuhan's South China Seafood City, said the authorities, who shut down the market Jan. 1 to carry out daily disinfections. The 1,000-stall bazaar sold not only seafood but marmots, spotted deer and venomous snakes, according to state media reports that described the market as "filthy and messy."

Videos from Wuhan showed the market barricaded in recent days and guarded by police wearing surgical masks.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash