China health commission’s expert on Monday (20 Jan) said that human-to-human transmission has been confirmed in the outbreak of the mysterious SARS-like virus as a total of 15 medical workers have been diagnosed with coronavirus infection as of today.
According to state media, after visiting Wuhan city, Zhong Nanshan, an expert in SARS and director of the State Key Laboratory of Respiratory Disease said that those medical workers were infected by a coronavirus carrier when helping with the patients.
The evidence of the virus spreading between humans can also be seen in the two infection cases in Guangdong province involving a patient contracting the virus from a family member who had travelled to Wuhan, state media reported.
In response to media queries, Mr Zhong said, “The key to controlling the spread of the disease now is to prevent a super-spreader from emerging.” He added that the number of infected case is likely increase during the Chinese New Year travel period.
As reported by South China Morning Post, Guan Yi, a Chinese virologist and director of the State Key Laboratory of Emerging Infectious Diseases at University of Hong Kong noted, “I admit that the virus did not pass from person to person in the early stage, but the situation has evolved for more than a month, and the number of new cases has risen. ‘Human-to-human’ is no longer a word game.”
It was also reported that World Health Organisation (WHO) emergency panel will meet in Geneva on Wednesday (22 Jan) to discuss whether declare the outbreak “a public health emergency of international concern” — a rare designation only used for the gravest epidemics.
WHO said in its Twitter on Monday (20 Jan) that an animal source seemed to be the most likely primary source, with “some limited human-to-human transmission occurring between close contacts”.
An animal source seems the most likely primary source of this novel #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak, with some limited human-to-human transmission occurring between close contacts. pic.twitter.com/L57VUr5d3z
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) January 19, 2020
As of 21 Jan, Wuhan Municipal Health Commission confirmed that a fourth person has died from pneumonia which spread around China and reached a third Asian country.
The 89-year-old male victim was admitted on 18 Jan due to severe breathing difficulties after experiencing an onset of symptoms on 13 Jan. He was pronounced dead on 19 Jan.
Of the 198 total cases diagnosed with coronavirus in Wuhan, 25 cases were discharged, while 169 cases are still being treated in hospital, 9 of which are in critical illness and 35 are in severe illness, the statement read.
The new coronavirus strain, first discovered in the central city of Wuhan, has caused alarm because of its connection to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
Five cases were reported in Beijing, while in Shanghai, a 56-year-old woman who had come from Wuhan was hospitalised and in stable condition, local health authorities said.
South Korea on Monday also reported its first case — a 35-year-old woman who flew in from Wuhan. Thailand and Japan have previously confirmed a total of three cases — all of whom had visited the Chinese city.
Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) has been informed of a suspected case with a 44 year-old female Singapore resident with pneumonia on Monday (20 Jan).
The patient is currently in stable condition where she has been admitted for further assessment and has been isolated as a precautionary measure.
“To date, there have been no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus reported in Singapore,” said MOH.
As a step up for precautionary measures, MOH will expand the temperature screening at Changi Airport and issue Health Advisory for all inbound travellers on flights arriving from China from 22 January.