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Wuhan pneumonia outbreak: China reports four more infected patients

20:47 | 19/01/2020

Chinese health authorities on Saturday (Jan 18) had discovered four more cases of pneumonia following an outbreak of what is believed to be a new coronavirus strain in the central city of Wuhan, Reuters reported.

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The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. (Photo: AFP/NOEL CELIS)

The four individuals were diagnosed with pneumonia on Thursday and are in stable condition, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said in a statement. Saturday's statement marked the first confirmation of new cases by the authority in nearly a week and came a day after the commission confirmed the death of the second patient.

Nearly 50 people are known to have been infected and so far involve only individuals who have travelled to or live in Wuhan, but the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that a wider outbreak is possible. Many of China's 1.4 billion people will be travelling abroad during the Lunar New Year holidays next week, raising concerns about the disease spreading to other parts of the world.

Thailand has reported two cases of the coronavirus from Chinese travellers from Wuhan this week, while Japan has confirmed one case involving a Japanese national who travelled to Wuhan.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause infections ranging from common-cold symptoms, infecting the nose, sinuses or upper throat to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Some of the virus types cause less serious disease, while some - like the one that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) - are far more severe.

Health authorities have so far said the new virus discovered in Wuhan does not appear to be as lethal but admit they still know little about it, including its origins or how easily it can be transmitted from person to person.

Wuhan health officials said the man who died from a new virus believed to be from the SARS family.

A seafood market in Wuhan is believed to be the epicentre, but authorities say some of the 45 patients they have identified with the virus in the city deny having any exposure to this market.

The US said it would start screening at three of its airports in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles to detect travellers arriving via direct or connecting flights from Wuhan who may have symptoms of the new virus.

In Asia, Thailand has stepped up monitoring at four airports receiving daily flights from Wuhan. Airports in Malaysia and Singapore are also screening passengers from Wuhan, authorities said.

Vietnam's health authorities have installed five remote body temperature scanners at Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi to monitor people who have visited Wuhan in central China where a 61-year-old man has died and 41 others are infected.

According to VNA, health officials in Ho Chi Minh City have begun screening all passengers arriving at Tan Son Nhat Airport. Security forces and airport employees are also equipped to respond to possible cases of pneumonia.

Five infrared body temperature monitors have been installed at entry and exit points in Cam Ranh Airport near the popular resort town of Nha Trang in Khanh Hoa Province, a favorite destination for Chinese tourists.

Health staff have been instructed to don medical masks and use antiseptic solution and disinfectant.

A man in his 30s from Kanagawa prefecture, next to Tokyo, tested positive, Japan's health ministry said in a statement on Thursday (Jan 16). According to the Japan's health ministry the man treated in Japan has not been to the Wuhan seafood market. It is possible that he came in close contact with a person infected with the virus while in Wuhan, the ministry said.

Japan screens all incoming travellers for high temperatures and the health ministry last week started displaying notices at airports around the country asking passengers to come forward if they have travelled to Wuhan and have become sick./.

VNF/Reuters