The death toll from coronavirus in mainland China has hit 908, making it more deadly than the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic.
China’s National Health has confirmed 3062 new infections and 97 new deaths — a new daily record.
The infection rate has escalated sharply since the beginning of the year, with only 547 cases confirmed on January 22. By February 1 there were 14,300 cases.
There are now a total of 40,553 cases of the coronavirus worldwide, including 15 infections in Australia. The death toll worldwide is now at 910.
Of those infections, 6500 are severe, according to official data.
It comes as a Chinese official confirmed a worrying new fact about the deadly coronavirus; infections are taking place through aerosol transmission.
It was previously understood that two main ways the virus transmitted from person to person were:
• Direct transmission: breathing in air close to an infected patient who sneezes or coughs, and
• Contact transmission: when a person touches an object tainted with the virus before infecting themselves by touching their mouth, nose or eyes.
However, over the weekend, an official in Shanghai confirmed the virus also travelled through aerosol transmission, which means it can float a long distance through the air and cause infection later when it is breathed in.
“Aerosol transmission refers to the mixing of the virus with droplets in the air to form aerosols, which causes infection after inhalation, according to medical experts,” Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau deputy head Zeng Qun said at press briefing on Saturday, the China Daily reports.
“As such, we have called on the public to raise their awareness of the prevention and control of the disease caused by family gatherings.”
The concerns about the spread of the disease are so dire that the government has urged residents to cancel all social activities and avoid gatherings altogether.
People are also urged to open windows in the home to help with ventilation, and disinfect door handles, dinner tables and toilet seats.
A further 89 people, most in the virus’s epicentre of Hubei, have been pronounced dead from the outbreak, which pushes the death toll beyond the 774 killed worldwide by SARS, which took hold in 2002 and 2003.
The number of people infected in China is now almost 37,200.
There is a small ray of hope, however, with the World Health Organisation saying the outbreak appears to be “stabilising”.