41 people reportedly infected, one died
The “mystery” virus that caused an outbreak in China’s Wuhan province and was identified as a new coronavirus by health authorities, has spread to Japan, reported The New York Times on Thursday.
The virus had earlier been detected in a traveller from China in Thailand on Monday. This is the second case of the virus spreading beyond China.
Japan’s Health Ministry has said that the new patient is a Chinese man in his 30s who returned to Japan on January 6 after travelling to Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak in China.
The World Health Organisation issued a statement on Monday saying: “The possibility of cases being identified in other countries was not unexpected, and reinforces why WHO calls for on-going active monitoring and preparedness in other countries.”
The Wuhan health authorities have said epidemiological surveys revealed most of the viral pneumonia cases in Wuhan had a history of exposure to the South China seafood market, and “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission has been found.”
However, the patient in Japan had not visited any seafood markets in Wuhan, according to the country’s health ministry. Public health officials fear there could be a possibility of human-to-human transmission, said The New York Times.
A 61-year-old man in Wuhan became the first victim of the new virus last week. He had been admitted to the hospital with respiratory failure and severe pneumonia. Health officials said he used to regularly buy goods from Wuhan South China Seafood Market.
There have been a total of 41 cases reported in China so far. As investigations continue, the WHO calls for vigorous monitoring and preventive campaigns in neighbouring countries.
What are coronaviruses?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV), according to the WHO.
Preventive measures include regular hand washing with soap and water, covering the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs and avoiding crowded areas and contact with those showing signs of the illness.