HONG KONG (Reuters) – Eight Chinese patients diagnosed with an unidentified viral pneumonia were released from hospital on Wednesday after showing no signs of fever for several days, state-owned CCTV reported.

The pneumonia outbreak started in the central city of Wuhan late last month and 59 cases had been reported by Sunday, health authorities said, prompting fears of a possible SARS epidemic.

The city has since ruled out SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and bird flu, and said that it is still trying to identify the virus.

SARS emerged in southern China late in 2002 and spread rapidly to other cities and countries in 2003. More than 8,000 people were infected and 775 died.

(Reporting by Meg Shen in Hong Kong and Roxanne Liu in Beijing; editing by Nick Macfie)