There are fears the Wuhan coronavirus will spread to the province of Xinjiang, where more than one million Muslims are housed in China's concentration camps.
Experts have warned the camps would make a perfect breeding ground for the virus to grow and mutate based on overcrowding and squalid conditions.
There are currently 6000 confirmed cases of the virus worldwide, and the number of suspected cases has risen to more than 9000.
So far there's no evidence the virus has infiltrated camps, but China's state media has confirmed 10 cases of the virus present in the northwestern region, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA).
Georgetown University professor of Chinese history James Millward said this could be a "massive disaster" based on the camp's conditions.
Adrian Zenz, one of the leading researchers on Xinjiang's mass internment systems, similarly warned: "The coronavirus could add an entirely new dimension to the Xinjiang crisis."
There are growing fears among the Uighur community that if outbreaks hit the camps, the Chinese government could work to cover up the problem rather than be open about it.
Arslan Hidayat, an Australian Uighur activist, said the Uighur community worries they will take low priority for aid as the virus continues spreading.
"They're barely getting enough for Han Chinese citizens, let alone getting it out to Xinjiang," he told news.com.au. "If it does end up spreading, the Uighurs won't get the same kind of support that they're getting in Wuhan and cities on the eastern seaboard."
But he holds an even more disturbing fear: that the Chinese government could conduct medical testing on detained Uighurs to produce an antidote.
"They could use the Uighurs as guinea pigs to find a cure for the coronavirus. This is my worry," he said.
It's already routine process for Xinjiang officials to gather blood samples from hundreds of Uighurs as part of a mass DNA collection effort, The New York Times reported last month.
Uighurs who have fled the country have said officials routinely collected blood samples from hundreds of detainees under the veneer of a mandatory health checkup program, which were filed and stored as part of the region's "total surveillance" crackdown.
Others say they were injected with unknown substances and forced to take medication without being told exactly what it was.
As concerns amplify over the spreading coronavirus, the hashtag #VirusThreatInCamps has gone viral, with Uighurs voicing their concerns about what the spread could mean for family members detained in the camps:
Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress, warned there would be "serious implications" if the Wuhan virus made its way into the camps, adding that "the lives of millions of people will be at stake".
"We know for a fact that the conditions in the camps are horrible – many people have contracted serious sicknesses due to the overcrowded and filthy conditions," he told Radio Free Asia. "China should do everything in its power to prevent the spread of the Wuhan virus into any camps because the consequences will be catastrophic, resulting possibly in the deaths of tens of thousands of Uyghurs arbitrarily detained."
Last Thursday, local health authorities reported that a 47-year-old and a 52-year-old man were infected in Xinjiang.
The sharp rise in infections in recent days suggests there has been significant human-to-human spread, though it could also be explained by expanded monitoring efforts, said Malik Peiris, chairman in virology at the University of Hong Kong.
There are over 400 camps spread across the region, according to research by the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement activist group.
Past detainees say up to 45 people can be confined to a single room, with one plastic bucket between them for toilets, in rooms so small people have to take turns sleeping.
Sayragul Sauytbay, who escaped from a camp in March 2018, told Haaretz: "The food was bad, there weren't enough hours for sleep and the hygiene was atrocious.
"There were almost 20 people in a room of 16 square meters … each room had a plastic bucket for a toilet. Every prisoner was given two minutes a day to use the toilet, and the bucket was emptied only once a day."
Authorities have confirmed the coronavirus can spread from human to human, and that infection can occur before symptoms are present.
It is believed to have started with bats, who passed it to snakes, who then passed it to humans.
While the World Health Organisation has not deemed the virus a global health emergency, the number of people infected with the deadly disease has now surpassed that of SARS.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome ravaged China in 2002-03, killing more than 600 people worldwide.
The death toll from coronavirus has reached 132, with 840 newly confirmed cases in Hubei, according to the South China Morning Post.