medical staff members wearing protective suits at the Zhongnan hospital in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province. China banned trains and planes from leaving Wuhan at the centre of a virus outbreak on January 23, seeking to seal off its 11 million people to contain the contagious disease that has claimed 17 lives, infected hundreds and spread to other countries. Image Credit: AFP

Several people who've died from a new virus in China didn't display symptoms of fever, potentially complicating global efforts to check for infected travelers as they arrive at airports and other travel hubs.

Details released by China's National Health Commission show five of the 17 people who died after being infected with novel coronavirus displayed other symptoms such as breathing difficulty, chest tightness and coughing. The joint-oldest victim, an 89-year-old male, was suffering from drowsiness and incontinence, as well as a fever. He sought medical help on Jan. 5 and died on Jan. 18. He had pre-existing conditions, including hypertension.

The absence of fever in some cases indicates that temperature screening, the most common measure being used at transport links and airports to check travelers, may not identify some infected people.

At least nine victims had pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, coronary artery disease and Parkinson's disease, the National Health Commission said. Eight wereaged 80 or over, two were in their seventies, five in their sixties and one in his fifties. The youngest was a 48-year-old woman with a pre-existing condition. Four of the victims were women and the rest were men.

China has banned travel from Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus, essentially putting the capital of central China's Hubei province - with a population of 11 million people - under lockdown. The virus has already spread to other parts of the country and elsewhere, including the U.S. and Hong Kong, triggering memories of the SARS pandemic in 2003 that killed nearly 800 people.

Hong Kong on Thursday suspended high-speed rail ticket sales to Wuhan, nearly 600 miles away, according to Radio Television Hong Kong, while Macau's government canceled Lunar New Year festivities. The holidays begin in earnest tomorrow, heaping pressure on Chinese authorities trying to contain the virus as hundreds of millions of people travel to their hometowns in the biggest migration of humans on the planet.

The World Health Organization is meeting Thursday to determine a strategy for the outbreak.