Wuhan virus could have spread between family members, say officials, Latest World News - The New Paper

Wuhan virus could have spread between family members, say officials

This article is more than 12 months old

Meanwhile, patient with virus detected in Japan after returning from the Chinese city

BEIJING: A new virus from the same family as the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) pathogen could have been spread between family members in the Chinese city of Wuhan, local authorities said.

The outbreak, which has killed one person, has caused alarm because of the link with Sars, which killed 349 people in mainland China and 299 in Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

One of the 41 patients in Wuhan could have been infected by her husband, Wuhan's health commission said on Wednesday. The announcement follows news that the first case has been detected in Japan. It appears to be the second time the novel coronavirus has been detected outside China, after the World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed a case in Thailand.

Japan's Health Ministry said a man who had visited Wuhan, the apparent epicentre of the outbreak, was hospitalised on Jan 10, four days after his return to Japan. He reported having a persistent fever.

Tests confirmed he was suffering from the new virus.He was identified as a man in his 30s in Kanagawa prefecture, and Kyodo News agency said he is Chinese. He has since been released from the hospital after his condition improved. His family and medical staff who treated him have not become ill.

"This is the first domestic discovery of a pneumonia case related to the new coronavirus," the ministry said in a statement.

"We will continue active epidemiological research while also coordinating efforts with the WHO and related agencies to conduct a risk assessment."

The man in Japan said he did not visit the market, leaving it unclear how he got the virus. But he had "close contact" with at least one person with pneumonia symptoms.

Japanese officials are checking his activity and people he had contact with in China and in Japan, AFP reported.

Wuhan's health commission said one patient worked at Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, identified as the centre of the outbreak, but his wife had been diagnosed with the illness despite reporting "no history of exposure" at the market. It has been closed since Jan 1.

The woman diagnosed in Thailand, who is in a stable condition, had not reported visiting the market, the WHO said on Tuesday. WHO doctor Maria Van Kerkhove said the group "wouldn't be surprised if there was some limited human-to-human transmission, especially among families who have close contact with one another".

Wuhan's health commission said on Wednesday that most of the patients diagnosed with the virus were male, and many were middle-aged or elderly.

WHO said on Monday it was not surprising that the virus had spread beyond China. "The possibility of cases being identified in other countries was not unexpected, and reinforces why WHO calls for ongoing active monitoring and preparedness in other countries."

German researchers said yesterday they have developed the first diagnostic test for the new virus. Dr Christian Drosten, the director of the Institute for Virology at Berlin's Charite hospital, said the test developed by his team will allow labs to reliably diagnose the novel coronavirus "in a very short period of time", AFP reported.

The test protocol is being made available through the WHO, and labs can order a molecule to compare patient samples with a positive control, he said.

Singaporean man isolated in third suspected case of Wuhan virus here

In the third suspected case of the mystery virus here, and the first involving a Singaporean, a 69-year-old man with pneumonia and a travel history to the Chinese city of Wuhan has been warded and isolated as a precaution.

In a statement yesterday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said the man did not visit the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, the centre of the outbreak that has killed one and infected about 40 people in China.

The man was admitted to hospital for further assessment and treatment, and is in stable condition.

"Investigations to establish whether the suspect case is linked to the Wuhan pneumonia cluster are ongoing," MOH said.

The two others previously suspected of having the new virus, a three-year-old girl and a 26-year-old man, both Chinese nationals, have been cleared after they tested negative for the bug.

Both had pneumonia and visited Wuhan, but also had not gone to the market linked to the outbreak.

MOH previously said it will continue to monitor the situation closely and urged the public to remain vigilant. "As medical practitioners are on the lookout for cases with pneumonia who have recently returned from Wuhan, Singapore is likely to see more suspect cases that will need to be investigated." - KOK YUFENG