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Deaths rise to 132 in China virus outbreak as foreigners airlifted

Medical workers at Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University in Wuhan, China. (Xiong Qi/Xinhua via AP/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

There are 5,974 confirmed cases nationwide in China of a dangerous new virus from which 132 people have died as of January 28, the country’s National Health Commission said.

Another 9,239 suspected cases of the respiratory illness are being monitored, the government health authority said in a statement on January 29.

Dozens of cases have been confirmed outside mainland China as well, including in Europe, North America, and elsewhere in Asia.

The total number of confirmed cases now surpasses that of SARS, another respiratory illness that killed more than 600 people worldwide in 2002-2003.

Symptoms of the new kind of coronavirus include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

Authorities have sealed off access to 17 cities in China’s Hubei Province, where the pathogen is believed to have originated and was first reported in December.

Wuhan lies at the epicenter of the outbreak, a city populated by 11 million people in central China.

Foreigners have begun to leave the virus-stricken province where more than 50 million people are trapped.

A plane carrying U.S. citizens in Wuhan on January 29 departed en route to Alaska where they will be screened again for the virus. A Japanese plane airlifted 206 people from Wuhan, landing at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport early on January 29.

The EU plans to fly its citizens out aboard two French planes this week, and South Korea was expected to do the same.

The World Health Organization has recognized the outbreak as a national emergency but stopped short of declaring it an international one.