Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market Photograph:( AFP )
A virus akin to SARS that recently hit China mysteriously has taken the lives of two people with more than hundreds likely to be infected, reported AFP.
The virus also causes pneumonia which has infected at least 41 people in China. The first signs of the virus appeared around a seafood market in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
According to a study published by scientists at the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at the Imperial College in London, the number of affected could run into thousands.
Watch: At least 59 people infected with mysterious virus in China, Beijing rules out SARS threat
The Centre, which also advises world health bodies like the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated a ''total of 1,723 cases'' in Wuhan by January 12.
"For Wuhan to have exported three cases to other countries would imply there would have to be many more cases than have been reported," Professor Neil Ferguson, one of the authors of the report, told the BBC.
The infection no longer remains within the Chinese borders, with cases appearing in Thailand and Japan as well. In the former, two were infected, while one person has been affected in the latter so far. According to researchers, this was traced via international flight traffic data from Wuhan's airport.
"I am substantially more concerned than I was a week ago.... [but it is] too early to be alarmist", Ferguson added.
Ferguson further added that it was "unlikely" that the infection was a product of animal exposure.
"People should be considering the possibility of substantial human-to-human transmission more seriously than they have so far," he added.
As of now, two people have known to be killed by the strange virus, which originates from the same pathogen family as the SARS virus.
Global health authorities have reaffirmed the lesser risk associated with the infection.
However, attempts to stop it from spreading have been put into action. For example, in Hong Kong, the authorities have improved their screening mechanism. This includes temperature checkpoints for travellers coming from the Chinese mainland.
The United States will also start screening flights arriving from Wuhan at San Francisco as well as New York City, along with Los Angeles.
Recently, Indian authorities also issued an advisory for people planning to travel to China.
(With inputs from AFP)