WHO to decide on Thursday if coronavirus constitutes international emergency

GENEVA, Jan 22 (Reuters) - The World Health Organisation said that it will decide on Thursday whether to declare a global emergency over the outbreak of a new flu-like virus spreading from China.

If it does so it will be only the sixth international emergency to be declared in the last decade.

"The decision is one I take extremely seriously," WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, adding that he was only prepared to make it with the appropriate amount of consideration and information.

He was speaking after the WHO held a day-long meeting of an independent panel of experts in Geneva on Wednesday.

Deaths from China's new coronavirus virus rose to 17 on Wednesday with more than 540 cases confirmed, increasing fears of contagion from an infection suspected to originate from illegally traded wildlife.

The previously unknown coronavirus strain is believed to have emerged from an animal market in the central city of Wuhan, with cases now detected as far away as the United States.

Wuhan is closing its transport networks and advising citizens not to leave the city, state media reported on Thursday. (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Hugh Lawson)