KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 22 — A new respiratory virus from China that killed six in Wuhan and infected over 300 people has reached the United States (US) and Taiwan.
AFP reported that a US resident in his 30s who lives near Seattle approached authorities after reading about the pneumonia-like virus in news reports.
Chris Spitters, a Washington state health official, reportedly said that the US man is currently hospitalised “out of an abundance of precaution, and for short term monitoring, not because there was severe illness”. He is still in good condition, however.
The man entered the US on January 15 after traveling to Wuhan, China, the centre of the outbreak, two days before the US began deploying health officials at major airports to screen passengers arriving from the central Chinese city 1,000km away from Beijing.
A spokesman for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was also quoted in the AFP report as saying that the overall risk to Americans remains low, despite more patients expected to get the virus in the US and abroad.
In Taiwan, meanwhile, a Taiwanese woman in her 50s living in Wuhan who returned to the island on Monday with symptoms that include fever, coughing and a sore throat, has become the island state’s first confirmed case of the coronavirus, The Straits Times reported.
The patient reported her symptoms to quarantine officials on arrival at Taoyuan airport and was immediately taken to a hospital for treatment, the daily quoted the island’s Centres for Disease Control (CDC) as confirming. She claimed not to have visited any local markets or have contact with birds or wild animals while in Wuhan.
The Wuhan outbreak was linked to a fresh seafood market, which also sells exotic meat, that has been closed since January 1. Coronaviruses, which come from bats but can also infect various animals, can jump from animals to humans.
Chinese authorities have been quoted as saying that the coronavirus, whose origins are still unknown, can be transmitted through humans. Cases have been reported in Thailand, Japan, and South Korea, as well as Shanghai and Beijing.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is slated to hold an emergency meeting today to determine whether to declare a rare global public health emergency over the disease, which it has only done a handful of times, including during the H1N1 pandemic of 2009, which also hit Malaysia.
Meanwhile, no traces of the the Wuhan-linked coronavirus have been detected in Malaysia as of yesterday, Bernama quoted Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye as saying.
Speaking to reporters at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), he said 61 of the 267,054 passengers and airline crew members screened at KLIA from January 15 to 20 recorded high body temperature readings, but these cases were not linked to the virus, as a second scan showed they were suffering from common fever.
From January 15 to 20, thermal scans were conducted on 258,246 passengers and 8,808 crew members, from a total of 2,484 aircraft that landed at KLIA, he added, as part of the Ministry of Health’s increased efforts to prevent the disease from entering the country.
The current protocol in place for those unwell and feverish returning to Malaysia, regardless of wherever they arrived from, is that they would be placed at the KLIA Health Quarantine Centre before being taken to Sungai Buloh Hospital for further action.
According to the WHO, the coronavirus could be caused by a newly emerging member of the family of viruses that caused the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak that infected over 8,000 people and killed almost 800 in 2003 worldwide.