The Year of the Rat has dawned in Asia in most inauspicious fashion, with public health officials grappling with an exploding viral outbreak centered in China.
Tens of millions of Chinese have been locked down in what officials are saying may be one of the largest health quarantines of its kinds, occurring during Asia’s major New Year holiday. Authorities in Beijing report dozens of deaths and hundreds of cases of what officials have called a novel coronavirus (officially, for now, the 2019-nCoV).
It has sickened or killed most of its victims in central China, in and around the city of Wuhan. The afflicted suffer a pneumonia-like illness, and medical scientists say that advances in genetics have allowed them to study the virus with unprecedented speed and accuracy.