CHINA'S worth health crisis in years has sparked fear and uncertainty for businesses from North America to Asia that depend on trade in the affected region.

Experts say it's too soon to know how disruptive the crisis will prove. But it's already having an impact.

McDonald's has shuttered restaurants in five Chinese cities, including the inland port city of Wuhan where the crisis is centred. Shanghai Disneyland has temporarily closed as a precaution. Restrictions on travel and fears of flying to the region are threatening to depress demand for oil and jet fuel.

In a sign of China's vast economic reach, even niche companies in America have begun feeling squeezed. In Houston, Rockstar Wigs worries that production delays in China will hold up shipments.

Omaha, Nebraska-based Home Instead Health Care has stopped sending caregivers to the homes of elderly clients in Wuhan.

Wuhan, and 12 other Chinese cities are on lockdown, isolating a combined population of more than 36 million.

''Personally, I now cannot go to Wuhan to renegotiate new orders, meet with new vendors, take foreign companies for supplier visits, and visit trade shows,'' said Stanley Chao, a consultant in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, who helps foreign companies do business in China.

''I may lose three to five trips to China, which is my bread and butter. In turn, my team in China cannot work and I may have to temporarily lay them off for a while.''

The growing fears over the virus rattled financial markets last Friday. The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index endured its worst day since early October and snapped a two-week winning streak.

The S&P index fell 0.9 per cent after having been down as much as 1.3pc earlier. Shares in airlines and other companies in the travel and tourism industries , which stand to be among the hardest-hit sectors if the crises worsens, fell sharply.

The authorities are sharing more information, said Kent Kedl, partner at the consultancy Control Risks responsible for Greater China. They are getting out in front of it. [AP]


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