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A 20-year-old Chinese woman from Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, travelled 400 miles north to Anyang where she infected five relatives, without ever showing signs of infection, Chinese scientists reported on Friday, offering new evidence that the virus can be spread asymptomatically.

The case study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, offered clues about how the coronavirus is spreading, and suggested why it may be difficult to stop.

“Scientists have been asking if you can have this infection and not be ill? The answer is apparently, yes,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Centre, who was not involved in the study.

China has reported a total of 75,567 cases of the virus known as COVID-19 to the World Health Organization (WHO) including 2,239 deaths, and the virus has already spread to 26 countries and territories outside of mainland China.

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