PV International Desk : Deaths from China’s new flu-like virus rose to 17 on Wednesday, heightening global fears of contagion from an infection suspected to have come from animals.

The previously unknown and contagious coronavirus strain emerged from the central city of Wuhan, with cases now detected as far away as the United States. Officials believe the origin to be a market where wildlife is traded illegally.

The latest death toll in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, had risen to 17 by 1200 GMT on Wednesday, state television quoted the provincial government as saying.

Hours earlier, officials had put the toll at nine dead, all in Wuhan, and more than 470 cases confirmed in China.

Contrasting with its secrecy over the 2002-03 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that killed nearly 800 people, China has this time given regular updates to try to head off panic as millions travel at home and abroad for the Lunar New Year.