GENEVA, Switzerland - The World Health Organization (WHO) says the novel coronavirus could spread to other countries "in the coming days."
The outbreak, reported in December in the central city of Wuhan, the most populated city in Central China, is raising eyebrows around the world.
With memories fresh of the SARS outbreak some years ago, Asian markets on Tuesday plummeted with the Hong Kong index, the epicentre of the SARS virus, dropping 750 points.
The reaction was contagious, with markets around the globe following suit, although not to that extent.
The WHO has convened an emergency panel to meet Wednesday to discuss the implications.
The panel will be chaired by WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
"More cases should be expected in other parts of China and possibly other countries in the coming days," WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said Tuesday.
In a news conference, Jasarevic said the emergency panel will "advise him if the situation constitutes a public health emergency of international concern and what recommendations should be put in place."
A total of seventeen people have died from the new strain of coronavirus in China, with as many as 540 cases currently confirmed.
Jaserevic disclosed a high-level WHO team is on the ground in Wuhan, where it is believed the outbreak started.
"Based on current information, an animal source seems the most likely primary source of this ("2019-nCoV") outbreak with limited human-to-human transmission occurring between close contacts," Jasarevic told the press conference.
(Photo credit: Simon Song | South China Morning Post).