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China reported 17 more cases of pneumonia caused by a new coronavirus strain on Sunday, stoking worries of it spreading as the country gears up to celebrate Chinese lunar new year when hundreds of millions of people travel.

Three of the patients are seriously ill, according to a statement issued by the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission.

The total number of patients infected by the disease in China, all of them in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, has now climbed to 62. Two have died.

Following warnings by the World Health Organization of a wider outbreak, airport authorities in the United States as well as most Asian nations, including Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Singapore, and Malaysia, are screening passengers from Wuhan.

The new virus is from the same large family of coronaviruses that includes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 800 people globally during a 2002/03 outbreak that also started in China.

Although experts say the new virus does not appear to be as lethal as SARS, there is little known about its origins and how easily it can spread.

Thailand and Japan have confirmed cases of the virus, all involving people who have traveled from Wuhan.

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