Wuhan nCoV cases more than 200, some with no link to outbreak market

More confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Wuhan has increased the outbreak total to over 200, some with no obvious links to the outbreak market. A week ago, Wuhan officials reported only 45 cases. Health officials also announced cases in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. Three people have died.

Four cases have been confirmed abroad — two in Thailand, one in Japan and one in South Korea all of them involving people who are either from Wuhan or have visited the city. The Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a 35-year-old Chinese woman was suffering from a fever and respiratory problems after travelling there from Wuhan. She was put into isolation and treated at a local hospital.

Authorities around the world, including in the US and many Asian countries, have since increased screening of travellers from Wuhan. According to experts in the UK, the number of people infected could still be far greater than official figures suggest, with estimates closer to 1,700. The increase in the number of cases in China comes during the heaviest travel season in Asia just days ahead of the Lunar New Year (25th January 2020). The World Health Organization (WHO) reported evidence of limited human-to-human transmission and health officials are closely monitoring for signs of sustained spread. This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available.

The current outbreak has revived memories of the SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome virus — also a coronavirus — that killed 774 people in the early 2000s across dozens of countries, mostly in Asia. Analysis of the genetic code of the new virus shows it is more closely related to SARS.

Some nCoV cases have no ties to animal market

In the most recent update, Wuhan’s health officials said new cases were identified among unexplained pneumonia cases at community health centers and local hospitals. Wuhan’s officials also reported an analysis of data of earlier cases found that some had no history of contact with the seafood market at the center of the investigation, which also sold other animals such as poultry, bats, marmots, and wild game meat. The number of close contacts under monitoring has risen from 763 to 817, They are all under isolation treatment at designated medical institutions in Wuhan. Of the 817 close contacts tracked, 727 medical observations have been lifted, and 90 medical observations are still underway.

Shenzhen patient had visited Wuhan

Guangdong province health officials announced a 2019-nCoV infection in a 66-year-old man from Shenzhen who visited relatives in Wuhan on Dec 29, according to an official statement translated and posted by FluTrackers. He developed fever and fatigue on January 3, 2020. The patient was positive for nCoV nucleic acids. On January 18, the specimens were sent to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention for viral nucleic acid review testing, and the results were confirmed. China CDC officials agreed that this was a confirmed case of pneumonitis infected by nCoV. The patient is now in stable condition.

Shenzhen is China’s fourth-largest city, with a population of about 12.5 million, and is about 900 kilometers from Wuhan. Shenzhen lies adjacent to Hong Kong.

WHO continues to monitor situation

After Wuhan officials announced the initial spike of 17 cases, the WHO’s Western Pacific regional office (WHO WPRO) said the new cases were found thanks to enhanced surveillance, some with no apparent links to the seafood market. Because of a government call last week to implement broader screening, more cases may be identified in other parts of China in coming days & weeks. Based on WHO’s latest analysis, there is evidence of limited human-to-human spread, adding that the pattern is similar to other respiratory illnesses, especially other coronavirus outbreaks. Although there is no clear evidence of sustained transmission, meaning the virus spreads easily and isn’t limited to clusters, the WHO said it doesn’t have enough information to fully assess the extent of transmission.

Signs of nCoV infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. People are being advised to avoid “unprotected” contact with live animals, thoroughly cook meat and eggs, and avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.

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Dr. Melvin Sanicas

Dr. Melvin Sanicas

Physician 🩺 Scientist 🔬 | Writes about vaccines, viruses, infectious diseases, and global health