At least seven people are in critical condition after falling ill with a mysterious pneumonia in Wuhan, central China.
59 people have been diagnosed with the virus and admitted to hospitals for close observation while neighbouring Hong Kong has announced 44 cases just weeks before Chinese New Year.
The outbreak has been linked to the Huanan seafood wholesale market where people visiting the market and stall owners complained of fever and shallow breathing.
The wholesale market has now been temporarily shut down for sanitation since January 1.
Wuhan Municipal Health Commission announced on Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter , that 59 people have been diagnosed with the unknown virus, seven of which are in critical condition.
The statement said the symptoms developed as early as December 12.
All patients have been placed in quarantine and another 163 people who had been in close contact with the patients have been placed under medical observation.
Last week, a video showing two people wearing face masks and protective clothing carrying out a health check on board of a plane has been circulating on social media.
A woman can be heard saying in the background: "This person has infectious disease, we are not allowed to leave the plane."
According to NDTV, the plane was set to depart from an airport in Wuhan on January 1.
Medical experts in China have ruled out seasonal influenza, SARS and MERS as they run diagnostic tests to identify the mysterious illness.
Yuen Kwok-yung, a microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong, said: "There are chances that the virus was transmitted from animals to humans, but so far the authorities have not identified the virus.'
He added that the unknown illness share similarities of the 2003 SARs epidemic, which had killed 813 people in 37 countries.
The World Health Organisation says it is monitoring the situation and is 'in close contact with national authorities in China'.
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