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China lifts virus death toll to nine and warns of mutation risks

Illness spreads to Macao and US, while Hong Kong reports 'highly suspected' case

China's Health Commission Vice Minister Li Bin attends a news conference on prevention and control of new coronavirus related pneumonia in Beijing on Jan. 22.   © Reuters

HONG KONG -- The death toll from a new pneumonialike virus originating in China rose to nine on Wednesday, with more than 440 people affected across the country. Meanwhile, newly confirmed cases in Macao and the U.S., and a suspected case in Hong Kong, underscored concerns over how the coronavirus is spreading ahead of the heavily traveled Lunar New Year holidays.

Li Bin, vice minister of China's National Health Commission, at the first state-level news conference since the outbreak, said the new virus is mainly transmitted through respiratory contact, and evidence shows that the coronavirus is also spreading among members of communities. The virus first emerged in the central city of Wuhan and became public late last month.

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