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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Doctors Find a Pneumonia Clue

HONG KONG -- Doctors in Hong Kong have identified the family of a deadly pneumonia virus that has killed 14 and put several hundred people in intensive care, even as the disease appeared to jump to China's capital Wednesday.

Hong Kong Health Minister Yeoh Eng-kiong said Germany and Taiwan had found patients with a virus similar to Hong Kong's, another clue to solving the outbreak over which the World Health Organization issued its first global health warning in 10 years.

Three more people had died by Wednesday in Hong Kong and one in Vietnam with symptoms linked to severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.

Beijing People's Hospital reported two people infected with an atypical pneumonia of a similar kind to SARS, and a hospital worker at a Beijing military hospital reported two dead from pneumonia, but could not say if it was the killer virus.

Those affected first show flu-like symptoms but within days could be on a life-support respirator. "We don't expect a high mortality rate," Yeoh said.

Two people have been discharged in Hong Kong after recovering with treatment by a cocktail of anti-viral drugs and steroids.

Some medical experts said knowing the virus family would make the disease easier to diagnose and opened the way for a vaccine to be developed, but stressed more work had to be done.

Microbiology professor John Tam, part of the Hong Kong team that made the discovery, said, "From the shape of the virus, it belongs to the paramyxoviridae family."

Though symptoms appear similar, this virus does not belong to the influenza group of viruses, said Lo Wing-lok, an infectious disease expert.

Laboratories around the world have been working to identify the virus strain.

"Severe acute respiratory syndrome is such a dramatic example of the importance of global surveillance and response capacity," Dr. James Hughes at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control told reporters.

There have been fears that a surprise new strain of influenza could repeat the devastation of earlier global pandemics.

In Vietnam, a 66-year-old French doctor at the Vietnam-France Hospital in Hanoi became the second person to die from the disease in Vietnam. A nurse died over the weekend.

Coming to grips with the disease has been more difficult because of a lack of information coming from China, where many believe this virus originated.

Most infections are in China, Hong Kong and Vietnam, but it is spreading to Singapore, Canada and Taiwan, with linked cases in Australia, Britain, Canada, Spain and the United States.

A pneumonia outbreak recently infected 300 and killed five in China's Guangdong province. Chinese journalists were told not to report on pneumonia cases, and Chinese authorities only gave the WHO an initial report on their handling of the outbreak Sunday.

Another specialist warned of possibly more trouble ahead.

"There are many kinds of such viruses, and they mutate fast. Therefore, drugs may not be able to catch up with the speed with which they mutate," said professor Kenneth Lee at the School of Pharmacy at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.