Wuhan Virus Latest: Official Infection Count Nears 450 as Outbreak Spreads


Wuhan Virus Latest: Official Infection Count Nears 450 as Outbreak Spreads

Since December, health authorities in China have been grappling with an outbreak of viral pneumonia that has sickened hundreds of people and killed nine.

The disease is thought to be caused by a previously unknown type of coronavirus that may have first spread to humans from animals at a now-shuttered seafood market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where most of the cases have been diagnosed. Further cases have been confirmed in Thailand, Japan and South Korea while suspected cases have also occurred in a number of other countries and territories.

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause a variety of ailments, among them the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). Most known coronaviruses cause relatively mild cold-like symptoms, but their ability to jump between humans and animals makes them hard to contain. Chinese health officials have confirmed that the new virus can spread between people, but do not believe it to be as serious as SARS or MERS.

Caixin Global will continue covering this story as it develops. Please check back regularly for updates.

Wednesday, Jan. 22, noon 

• Nine people have now died and the number of confirmed coronavirus cases on the Chinese mainland has climbed to 339, the State Council Information Office said in a morning press conference. There was one case in Macao and one case in Taiwan. A total of 1,394 people are under medical observation.

• Researchers from the German Center for Infection Research have developed and released a rapid diagnostic test for the new virus. It has been published online by the World Health Organization (WHO).

• Coronavirus fears have prompted North Korea to place a temporary ban on foreign tourists, according to a tour operator based in Beijing.

• The WHO is preparing to convene an expert committee in Geneva on Wednesday to determine whether the outbreak constitutes an international health emergency.

Wednesday Jan. 22, 3 a.m.

• The United States confirmed its first case of infection by the novel coronavirus racing through China. A male patient in his 30s was diagnosed with the virus in Snohomish County, Washington state, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The patient had recently traveled to Wuhan, where a cluster of infection cases has been reported, and returned Jan. 15 to the U.S. He sought care at a medical facility in Washington after showing pneumonia-like symptoms, according to the CDC. The person is in good condition and isolated “out of caution,” and the case “poses little risk” to the public, a CDC official said.

The CDC said it deployed a team to support the ongoing investigation in Washington, including potentially tracing close contacts to determine whether anyone else has become ill.

The CDC last week started to screen passengers entering the U.S. from Wuhan at three airports: San Francisco, Los Angeles and John F. Kennedy in New York.

Tuesday, Jan. 21, 12 p.m.

• The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in China grew to 319, including 270 in Hubei, 10 in Beijing, 17 in Guangdong and six in Shanghai. The death toll reached six, all in Hubei. Outside China, one confirmed case was reported in Japan, two in Thailand and one in South Korea.

• Top health experts warned of potential risks of a so-called “super-spreader” — a patient with stronger infectious power than other patients — in the spread of coronavirus, which will pose greater challenges for epidemic control.

Tuesday, Jan. 21, 7 p.m.

• The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in China grew to 291, according to the country’s National Health Commission. That included 270 in Hubei — the province containing Wuhan — two in Shanghai, five in Beijing and 14 in Guangdong.

• China’s top health body said 922 more people were under medical observation, while an additional 817 who may have come into contact with the virus have been cleared.

• A 5-year-old boy who arrived from Wuhan became the first person in the Philippines to undergo testing for the disease, CNN reported. He’s reportedly in stable condition at a hospital in the city of Cebu.

• Taiwan’s health authority confirmed the first case of infection — in a woman of around 50 who works in Wuhan.

Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2 p.m.

• Wuhan’s municipal health commission said in a statement that a fourth person had died from the virus. The victim, an 89-year-old man surnamed Chen, died late Sunday evening. He had had a number of existing health conditions including high blood pressure, diabetes and coronary heart disease, the statement said.

• The number of medical workers diagnosed with the virus in Wuhan rose to 15, one more than the figure reported yesterday. A further suspected case has not been confirmed.

• The World Health Organization said it would convene an emergency meeting on the virus on Wednesday, as the total number of confirmed cases worldwide rose to 222. Of those, 218 are in China, two are in Thailand, one is in Japan and one is in South Korea.

• A man from Brisbane, Australia, who recently returned from Wuhan is being tested for the disease after he developed symptoms and sought medical attention, according to the local health department. A spokesman for Queensland Health told Caixin that the man had “recovered,” but they would need to wait a few days for test results to confirm whether he had the coronavirus. “He’s no longer sick with whatever he had,” the spokesman said.

• Australia said it will start screening passengers arriving on three weekly flights from Wuhan to Sydney, Reuters reported. The news comes after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said travelers arriving from Wuhan will have to undergo screenings at airports in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Monday Jan. 20, 11:30 p.m.

• Shanghai confirmed the first imported coronavirus case Monday night after reporting two suspected cases earlier in the day. The patient, a 56-year-old woman, showed symptoms of fever and fatigue shortly after she arrived at Shanghai from Wuhan, according to the National Health Commission. The patient was admitted to a local hospital and is in stable condition. Two people in close contact with her in Shanghai are under observation, the city’s health authority said.

• Zhong Nanshan, one of China’s best-known epidemiology experts who leads the national health commission team investigating the outbreak, said in an interview (link in Chinese) with the state broadcaster that it is confirmed that the new virus can be passed between people. Health authorities have been reluctant to confirm human-to-human transmission after the pneumonia broke out in Wuhan, where 198 cases have been confirmed.

Zhong said (link in Chinese) human-to-human transmission of the virus has been identified in Wuhan and Guangdong, and 14 medical staff have been affected during treatments.

• Vice Premier Sun Chunlan at a Monday meeting on pneumonia control said the new coronavirus is classified as a Class B infectious disease — the second-most serious level under Chinese law. Sun urged local authorities to enhance control and prevention efforts to stop the spread of the virus.

• Hong Kong said it will require all flight passengers arriving from Wuhan to declare their health conditions starting Jan. 21. The city also ordered doctors and medical institutions to report suspected infection cases to health authorities.

Monday, Jan. 20, 8:47 p.m.

• South Korea confirmed its first case of the coronavirus, becoming the latest country to report the new disease after Thailand and Japan. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the patient, a Chinese woman in her 30s from Wuhan, had been misdiagnosed with a cold at a Wuhan hospital after she developed a headache and fever on Jan. 18, well after medical staff were on alert for the virus. They said she denied visiting the seafood and animal market where the outbreak is believed to have originated. Her fever was detected by a thermal scanner during entry at Incheon International Airport.

• The number of confirmed cases of the Wuhan coronavirus in China grew to 217, with five now confirmed in Beijing, 14 in Guangdong (up from one confirmed case earlier today) and 198 in Wuhan.

• Authorities issued a warning about seven suspected cases in cities and regions where they had not previously been reported: two in Sichuan, one in Yunnan, two in Shanghai, one in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region and one in Shandong province.

• China’s leader Xi Jinping weighed in on the outbreak Monday, urging a redoubling of control and prevention efforts to ensure a “stable and peaceful Spring Festival.”

Monday, Jan. 20, 3:39 p.m.

• The number of confirmed cases in Wuhan more than tripled over the weekend, with provincial authorities reporting an additional 136 people had been diagnosed with the novel virus. Wuhan’s total number of confirmed cases now stands at 198.

• Wuhan’s health commission confirmed that another person died from the virus Saturday, bringing the official death toll to three.

• Beijing recorded its first cases of the virus. Two people in Daxing, a district in the south of the capital, tested positive for the pathogen, the district health commission said in a statement (link in Chinese). Both patients have a history of travel to Wuhan. They are being treated in quarantine and are in a stable condition, authorities said.

• The southern province of Guangdong confirmed that a 66-year-old man in the city of Shenzhen, which neighbors Hong Kong, had been diagnosed with the virus Sunday. He had also traveled to Wuhan in late December.

• Authorities in East China’s Zhejiang province said five people had been quarantined there since Friday after displaying symptoms of the disease (link in Chinese). The patients are awaiting diagnosis and remain in a stable condition, the provincial health commission said.

• A prominent virologist who helped identify the source of the deadly SARS coronavirus nearly two decades ago told Caixin that Wuhan’s spike in new cases “shows that the (new) virus can spread from person to person.” Guan Yi, who heads a laboratory for emerging infectious diseases at Hong Kong University’s School of Public Health, said that while the virus had seemingly not initially passed between people, the rise in cases over the past several weeks meant “we should no longer be playing word games about whether or not this constitutes human-to-human transmission.”

In 2002 and 2003, a SARS outbreak erupted in Hong Kong and southern China, killing hundreds.

• In a statement Monday, the China office of the World Health Organization (WHO) said the new cases reported over recent days were “not unexpected” and were the result of stepped up disease surveillance efforts. “Given travel patterns, it is possible there will be more new cases,” the U.N. agency said in a statement to Caixin, adding that as more cases are identified, the severity of the disease and how it is transmitted will become clearer.

“WHO urges countries to continue preparedness activities and continue sharing of information,” the statement said. “Speedy information sharing has already had a positive impact on the response.”

Sunday, Jan. 19

• China’s National Health Commission said it would seek to contain the virus, Reuters reported, amid fears that the impending Lunar New Year holiday season, during which millions of Chinese travel both domestically and internationally, could help it spread farther.

Friday, Jan. 17

• Thailand confirmed a second case of the virus, a 74-year-old Chinese woman from Wuhan, Reuters reported, citing the permanent secretary of the country’s health ministry. The country is not experiencing an outbreak of the virus, the permanent secretary stressed.

• Using the average detection window and international spread, an influential disease-modeling unit affiliated to Imperial College London estimated that 1,723 people in Wuhan may have contracted the virus, “substantially more” than the number so far reported by Chinese authorities.

• India issued travel advice to citizens visiting China, reminding people to observe good personal hygiene and monitor their health closely.

Thursday, Jan. 16

• Wuhan’s municipal health commission confirmed that a second person had died from pneumonia linked to the virus. The 69-year-old man, surnamed Xiong, died in the early hours of Wednesday morning. He had been treated for severe symptoms since Jan. 4, including extensive damage to multiple organs, heart muscle inflammation, abnormal kidney function, and suspected tuberculosis. http://wjw.wuhan.gov.cn/front/web/showDetail/2020011609057

• Japan said Thursday it had confirmed the first case of the virus in the country. The patient, a man in his 30s from Kanagawa prefecture in the Greater Tokyo region, tested positive after returning from Wuhan, the Japanese health ministry said (link in Japanese). The WHO said in a statement that global travel patterns increase the likelihood of further cases in other countries. 

• Singapore’s Ministry of Health said a 69-year-old man with pneumonia had been isolated for further assessment as a “precautionary measure,” bringing the country’s total number of suspected Wuhan coronavirus cases to three. The man, a Singaporean citizen, had a history of travel to Wuhan but had not visited the seafood market at the center of the investigation. He is currently in a stable condition, the ministry said.

• Vietnam’s health ministry quarantined two Chinese people from Wuhan at Danang International Airport as part of efforts to prevent the virus spreading to the Southeast Asian nation, Bloomberg reported.

Wednesday, Jan. 15

• The U.S. State Department warned Americans in China about the outbreak after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a risk assessment of the virus.

• Wuhan’s municipal health commission confirmed that some samples taken from the seafood market at the center of the investigation had tested positive for the virus.

• The World Health Organization said that the Chinese woman diagnosed with the virus in Thailand regularly visited fresh food markets in Wuhan but had not been to the seafood market in question.

Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com) editor Flynn Murphy (flynnmurphy@caixin.com)

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