A pneumonia-like viral illness has been spreading in China’s Wuhan city creating widespread panic in the country. Residents fear another outbreak like that of the SARS virus in 2003.
A total of 44 cases of the “mystery illness” have been reported, 11 of which are critical, according to the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission. They are being treated in isolation. A majority of the patients had symptoms of high fever and shortness of breath and signs of lung infection on X-rays.
An investigation was launched to determine the cause of the outbreak and the World Health Organisation (WHO) is also involved. Initial reports have ruled out common respiratory diseases such as influenza, avian influenza (bird flu) and adenovirus infection.
Most of those infected were working at a fresh seafood market in the city, said officials. Travellers to the region have been advised to wear surgical masks and visit a doctor at the first signs of a lung infection.
Authorities in Singapore and Hong Kong are on high alert and have begun screening visitors from Wuhan city, reported BBC News.
The outbreak led to the circulation of online rumours of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) making a comeback. The SARS epidemic of 2003 had affected a total of 8,098 people worldwide and killed 774, according to the WHO. The disease originated in the Guangdong province of China and spread to 26 countries.