Mystery SARS-like virus outbreak in China raises travel concerns

James Marshall
January 13, 2020

When viewed under an electron microscope, it exhibits the crown-like halo that gives coronaviruses their name, said Xu Jianguo, identified by CCTV as the leader of the preliminary assessment of the test results and a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

Coronaviruses are spread through coughing, sneezing or by touching an infected person. Chinese experts say that the virus strain is the same as the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

So far, 59 cases have been reported, seven of which are considered critical.

Eight patients were discharged Wednesday, the Xinhua state news agency reported. They had all been to Wuhan recently and are exhibiting fever or respiratory symptoms.

As Wuhan-linked pneumonia cases continue to rise, Hong Kong authorities have sought genetic information from mainland China on the unknown virus behind the infections, hoping to use the knowledge to develop a quick test for detection and diagnosis on potential victims. Reports from Wuhan suggest no human-to-human transmission, which could be good news and wouldn't be out of the question.

Medical personnel must report cases to the government, have the power to hold patients in hospitals and even prevent the close contacts of patients from travelling outside Hong Kong.

According to Chinese authorities, the virus can cause severe illness to some patients but no human to human transmission has been found while observing the Wuhan cases.

Chinese investigators conducted gene sequencing of the virus, using an isolate from one positive patient sample.

Fifty-nine patients in Wuhan, China, have been sickened by the disease since December, according to the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission.

A Chinese woman working for a South Korean company was diagnosed with pneumonia on Tuesday, the Korea Centers of Disease Control and Prevention said. Meanwhile, Taiwan authorities said Wednesday that they were quarantining a patient who fell ill with flu symptoms January 6, more than two weeks after the individual returned from a trip to Wuhan. For example, SARS emerged in China in 2002, and MERS appeared in Saudi Arabia for the first time in 2012, according to WHO.

"The first data on cases of lung disease in Wuhan - in particular the activity, location and symptoms of the infected people - indicate that a corona virus is a pathogen that could be the cause", in response to a World Health Organization assertion. In China, 349 individuals died in 2003, and one other 299 in Hong Kong.

No deaths due to the emerging form of pneumonia have so far been reported. The alert level means that the risk of public emergency is moderate, indicating public health factors - of either environmental or technological origin - requiring firm follow-up action by the local authorities, the statement said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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