WUHAN, Hubei: Fifteen medical workers in Wuhan have been diagnosed with pneumonia, with an additional worker suspected of having the disease, the local health authority said in a Weibo post on Tuesday (Jan 21).
One of the workers is in critical condition, it said, while the others are in a stable condition.
The news comes as authorities confirmed a sixth death from the disease in Wuhan, with a Beijing government expert warning of human-to-human transmission, a development that raises the possibility that it could spread more quickly and widely.
An 89-year-old man, was reported to be the fourth casualty of a new SARS-like virus that has spread across China and reached at least three other countries in Asia.
As of Jan 20, 291 people have fallen ill with the new coronavirus in China.
The majority of the cases have been in Wuhan, although the disease has since spread to other Chinese cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen.
Four cases have been reported in Thailand, Japan and South Korea.
"Medical workers are the main forces in fighting an outbreak," said the Weibo post, which was in Chinese.
In order to protect the health of medical personnel, the city has stepped up protection measures at hospitals, added the statement.
The authorities have also confirmed the virus is contagious between humans, and the World Health Organization announced that a key emergency committee would meet this week to discuss the infections.
Zhong Nanshan, a renowned scientist at the National Health Commission who helped expose the scale of the SARS outbreak, said patients could contract the new virus without having visited the city.
"Currently, it can be said it is affirmative that there is the phenomenon of human-to-human transmission," he said in an interview with CCTV.
Zhong predicted an increase of viral pneumonia cases during the Chinese New Year holiday - when millions travel in China - but expressed confidence in curbing the spread of the virus, China's official Xinhua news agency reported.