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Cases of new viral respiratory illness rise sharply in China

BY , Jan 22, 2020 4:23 PM - REPORT AN ERROR

In this Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, photo, travelers wearing face masks walk with their luggage at Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan in southern China's Hubei province. The U.S. on Tuesday reported its first case of a new and potentially deadly virus circulating in China, saying a Washington state resident who returned last week from the outbreak's epicenter was hospitalized near Seattle. (Chinatopix via AP)

Chinese health authorities are urging people in the city of Wuhan to avoid crowds and public gatherings after warning that a new viral illness infecting hundreds of people in the country and causing at least 17 deaths could spread further.

A national health official says 500 cases are confirmed in China.

The 17 deaths are all in Hubei province, where the first cases were reported last month. The illness comes from a new coronavirus that experts say may be spread through the respiratory tract and may be mutating.

An expert meeting convened by the World Health Organization on Wednesday will determine whether to declare the outbreak a global health crisis.

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