A new viral illness being watched with a wary eye around the globe has accelerated its spread in China with 56 deaths so far.

The U.S. Consulate in the city at the epicenter of the outbreak has announced it will evacuate its personnel and some private citizens aboard a charter flight.

Chinese President Xi Jinping called the outbreak a grave situation.

Travel agencies have been told to halt all group tours, and concern is growing over the potential impact of millions of people traveling back to the cities after the Lunar New Year holiday ends on Thursday.

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