A second person has died from a mysterious virus in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, officials said Thursday.

A 69-year-old man died on Wednesday from multiple organ failures, health officials in Wuhan said. His symptoms steadily worsened after first being diagnosed on December 31 with the virus linked to pneumonia-like symptoms.

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At least 41 people have been infected with what initial assessments indicate is a new strand of coronavirus, with the outbreak centered in Wuhan. Two cases have been detected in Thailand and Japan in people who had visited Wuhan. 

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Some coronaviruses are spread between animals, while others are can be transmitted from person-to-person.

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The Wuhan Health Commission said Thursday that 12 people have been discharged from the hospital after recovering, while five others remain in serious condition.

Authorities believe Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in the city of 11 million people is at the center of the outbreak. It was closed on January 1.

The first death linked to the virus was on January 9. The 61-year-old man who died frequently visited the seafood market and had preexisting abdominal tumors and chronic liver disease.

More investigation needed 

No human-to-human transmission of the virus has been confirmed since the outbreak began on December 12, but WHO and Wuhan health authorities are not ruling out the limited possibility of the virus spreading among people in close contact with those infected. 

The WHO said earlier this week that “additional investigation is needed to ascertain the presence of human-to-human transmission, modes of transmission, a common source of exposure and the presence of asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic cases that are undetected.”

The Chinese woman who was diagnosed while traveling in Thailand reported visiting seafood markets in the city, but she had not visited the one at the center of the outbreak. 

The patient in Japan, who was released from the hospital, had also not reported visiting the market.

The Wuhan Health Commission said Wednesday a man who had been diagnosed worked at Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, but his wife had been diagnosed with the illness despite reporting “no history of exposure” at the facility.

The outbreak comes ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday in late January, when many in China travel home or abroad.

The virus has revived memories of a SARS epidemic in 2002-2003 that killed 774 people in dozens of countries. Since 2012, 858 deaths have been linked to MERS, the majority of cases in Saudi Arabia.

cw/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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