KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 15 — The World Health Organization (WHO) is preparing for the possibility of a wider outbreak from the Wuhan virus that has killed one patient from pneumonia and reached Thailand.
Maria Van Kerkhove, acting head of the WHO’s emerging diseases unit, told a news briefing yesterday that hospitals worldwide have been informed about infection prevention and control if the new virus from China spreads.
There is no specific treatment for the new virus, but antivirals are being considered and could be “repurposed”, Van Kerkhove reportedly said in Geneva, Switzerland, according to Reuters.
“From the information that we have it is possible that there is limited human-to-human transmission, potentially among families, but it is very clear right now that we have no sustained human-to-human transmission,” she added, but said there is no “clear clinical picture” as yet as the issue is still developing.
Wuhan — a central Chinese city more than 1,000km from Beijing — has reported 41 cases of pneumonia, which preliminary lab tests cited by state media showed could be from a new type of coronavirus, although Wuhan health authorities previously said the figure was at 59. One patient has died. No new cases or deaths have been reported.
A Chinese woman has been quarantined in Thailand with a mystery strain of coronavirus, Thai authorities said on Monday, the first time the virus was detected outside China.
As of January 7, Malaysia has not recorded any cases of Wuhan-linked pneumonia, but the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre (CPRC) is on the ball nonetheless.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, human coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through coughing, sneezing, touching or shaking hands. It can cause infections ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) — which infected over 8,000 people and killed almost 800 in 2003 worldwide– and the more severe Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
The WHO previously said that the pneumonia cases in Wuhan could be caused by a newly emerging member of the family viruses that caused the deadly SARS and MERS outbreaks.
The Wuhan outbreak was also linked to a fresh seafood market, which sells exotic meat, and has since been closed since January 1. Coronaviruses, which come from bats but can also infect various animals, can jump from animals to humans.