A DEADLY global virus could already have spread to Britain — with up to 10,000 people now infected in China alone.
Ministers ordered a clampdown on flights from Wuhan, the city at the centre of the coronavirus epidemic.
Chinese authorities ordered the 11million residents of Wuhan to stay put, with public transport shut down yesterday.
Heathrow also stepped up checks as the death toll doubled in a day to 17, with more than 550 confirmed cases in six countries.
Experts warned the outbreak — today linked to snakes sold at a Wuhan seafood market — may be as deadly as Spanish flu, which killed 50million in 1918.
The coronavirus has spread to Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and the US.
There are fears that it could accelerate further as millions travel for Chinese New Year celebrations on Saturday.
2 IN EVERY 100 INFECTED COULD DIE
The World Health Organisation will tomorrow decide whether to declare the outbreak a global health emergency.
But Professor Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, said it was a “significant concern globally”.
He estimated last week 1,700 were infected in Wuhan alone, but now says it could be up to 9,700.
The professor claimed two in every 100 infected could die — comparable to Spanish flu, the deadliest pandemic in recent history.
He said: “Hospitals are overwhelmed with suspect cases.
“The authorities there are trying to scale up the response as quickly as possible but it is an extremely demanding situation.”
Prof Ferguson went on: “I suspect case numbers will continue to increase rapidly. Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people.
“Here we’re talking about a virus where we don’t understand fully the severity spectrum, but it’s possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent.
“Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918, so it is a significant concern globally.”
Prof Ferguson warned the virus, which has an incubation period of seven days, may already have reached Britain on the three flights a week from Wuhan.
He said: “We can’t rule out that possibility. Border screening, and in this case in the UK alerting the health system, is not foolproof.”
Ministers have ordered a clampdown on flights arriving from Wuhan to London, with a team of medics there to meet them.
Planes will now land in an isolated area of Heathrow Terminal 4 to limit the potential spread.
Border screening, and in this case in the UK alerting the health system, is not foolproof.
Officials have no plans to introduce blanket temperature screening of all passengers – but checks could be expanded to other flights.
Passengers arriving from Wuhan were today given a leaflet advising them to seek treatment if feeling ill.
But one said: “I thought there would have been more screening.”
Chinese authorities have told people to stop travel in and out of Wuhan and are tomorrow due to shut down the city’s airport.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is now advising against all but essential travel to Wuhan.
A spokesman said: “We advise British nationals travelling to China to remain vigilant.”
Scientists from China’s Peking University last night said the latest genetic analysis suggested the virus passed from bats to snakes and then on to humans.
Snakes were sold at the Wuhan seafood market where the virus is thought to have originated.
Dr Nick Phin, of PHE’s National Infection Service, warned travellers to Wuhan: “You should maintain good hand, respiratory and personal hygiene and should avoid visiting animal and bird markets or people with respiratory symptoms.
“Individuals should seek medical attention if they develop respiratory symptoms within 14 days of visiting Wuhan, either in China or on their return to the UK.”
A health source said a “handful” of samples have been sent in but have all so far returned negative.
Initial symptoms include fever, cough, tightness of the chest and shortness of breath.
There are no specific treatments for the virus and experts say thousands may already be infected.
Scientists are currently working to develop a vaccine and a bedside diagnostic test.
People across China have been avoiding public places, such as cinemas and shopping centres.
One patient was seen being wheeled into a hospital in a sealed-off tube in Huizhou.
Dr Andrew Freedman, from Cardiff University, said: “It is likely that further cases will be seen in other countries around the world, including the UK and Europe, in the days and weeks to come.”
WARNING ON TRADE
BILLIONS could be wiped off the world economy this year if the virus spreads, City experts warned yesterday.
Stocks in airlines and tourism companies are likely to be sold off first if the bug takes hold.
Russ Mould, of City stockbroker AJ Bell, said luxury goods big in Hong Kong and China, such as fashion firm Burberry, could also suffer.
The outbreak of respiratory disease Sars in China in 2002 and 2003 — with 8,000 cases recorded — cost up to £76billion as international travel was hit.
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