A new "unknown pneumonia" that is potentially deadlier than the novel coronavirus has reportedly killed more than 1,700 people this year in the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan, according to a warning issued by Chinese officials Thursday.
"Kazakhstani Health Department and other agencies are conducting comparative research and have not defined the nature of the pneumonia virus," said the Chinese Embassy in Kazakhstan in a statement to its citizens there.
New cases of the unidentified pneumonia have been increasing significantly since mid-June across the country, said the embassy, adding that in some places, authorities are reporting hundreds of new cases a day.
The rise has so far been concentrated in the regions of Atyrau, Aktobe and Shymkent, which together have almost 500 new cases and more than 30 critically ill patients, said the embassy statement, citing local media.
The disease has killed 1,772 people this year, some of whom were Chinese citizens, according to the embassy. 628 of those deaths took place in June alone. "This disease is much deadlier than Covid-19," said the statement.
The number of pneumonia cases in the capital city Nursultan have more than doubled this June from the same time last year, according to Kazakhstan's prominent news agency Kazinform, which cited official data.
"Up to 200 people are admitted to hospitals every day. Over the last few days some 300 people diagnosed with pneumonia were taken to hospitals a day. Besides some receive treatment at home," said the head of the Nursultan healthcare department, Kazinform reported.
The Chinese embassy warned residents in the region to limit how much they went outside, and to avoid crowded public areas. It also encouraged preventative measures like wearing a mask, disinfecting spaces, washing hands frequently, and allowing good air circulation in indoor spaces.
CNN has been unable to independently verify the Chinese Embassy report and has reached out to Kazakhstan's Ministry of Healthcare for further details.
The warning comes as Kazakhstan continues to battle a rise in Covid-19, which has infected 53,021 people and killed 264 people so far, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.