China says SARS-like virus spreading, reports 136 new cases
20 January 2020
The SARS-like coronavirus, reported first from Wuhan in central China, has now over 136 new cases and has spread to more areas in the country, including capital Beijing.
China last week reported the spread of the mysterious SARS-like virus and the death of three of the 140 affected persons, raising concerns as millions begin foreign trips for the Lunar New Year.
The new coronavirus strain has caused alarm because of its connection to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
A 45-year-old Indian school teacher is reported to be the first foreigner to have contracted the mysterious SARS-like coronavirus. Preeti Maheshwari, a teacher at an international school in Shenzhen, has been admitted to a local hospital after she fell seriously ill last Friday. Doctors on Monday confirmed that she was suffering from the virus and is being treated for it, a PTI report cited her husband Ashuman Khowal as saying.
Khowal, who is allowed to visit the patient for a few hours every day, said she was unconscious and doctors have said she could take a long time to recover.
Health authorities in Beijing's Daxing district said two people who had travelled to Wuhan were treated for pneumonia linked to the virus and are in stable condition.
In Guangdong, a 66-year-old Shenzhen man was quarantined on 11 January after contracting a fever and showing other symptoms following a trip to visit relatives in Wuhan, the provincial health commission said in a statement.
A total of 201 people have now been diagnosed with the virus in China. In Wuhan, 170 people are still being treated at hospital, including nine in critical condition, the city health commission said.
Wuhan, a city of 11 million, also is a major transport hub used by travellers, especially during the annual Lunar New Year holiday when hundreds of millions of Chinese people travel across the country to visit family.
While most of the patients that showed symptoms such as fever or cough are from the Wuhan and Shenzhen areas, health authorities in China are expanding the search, identifying suspected cases and conducting sampling tests across the country.
The authorities have also temporarily closed Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market for carrying out disinfection, although epidemiological analysis of previously published cases found no exposure to seafood, according to a Xinhua report.
Meanwhile most of the over 500 Indian students studying in the Wuhan city’s medical colleges are reported to have left for home for the Chinese New Year holidays.
On Friday, India’s health ministry advised travelers to China to follow simple public health measures like good personal hygiene, frequent hand washing with soap and also following respiratory etiquettes - covering mouth when coughing or sneezing and to avoid close contact with people who are unwell or showing symptoms of illness, such as cough, runny nose etc.
They have also been advised to avoid contact with live animals and consumption of raw/undercooked meats; avoid travel to farms, live animal markets or where animals are slaughtered; and wear a mask in case of respiratory symptoms such as cough or runny nose
For those returning to India, the ministry said, “If you feel sick on flight, while traveling back to India: Inform the airlines crew about illness; seek mask from the airlines crew; avoid close contact with family members or fellow travelers; and follow the directions of airline crew while disembarking.
Those who feel sick within a span of one month after return from China have also been asked to report the illness to the nearest health facility and also inform the treating doctor regarding travel history.