China confirms first human-to-human transmission of virus; 3 dead, over 225 infected
As many as 14 medical workers were infected by the disease, health officials said, a sign that the disease is highly infectious.Updated: Jan 20, 2020 22:27 IST
The mystery coronavirus can be transmitted between humans, China confirmed late on Monday night as the death toll from the mysterious virus rose to three, the total number of infected crossed the 225-mark and the outbreak spread across the country including to Beijing and Shanghai.
As many as 14 medical workers were infected by the disease, health officials said, a sign that the disease is highly infectious.
Zhong Nanshan, director of the State Key Laboratory of Respiratory Disease said transmission between humans was behind at least one confirmed case in Wuhan and also infections in two families in south China’s Guangdong province.
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Zhong added said 14 medical staff contracted the virus from one carrier without giving details.
Zhong added that at least 95 percent of the cases were connected to Wuhan, the capital of the central Chinese province of Hubei.
He said the occurrence of human-to-human and infection of the medical staff infection were “important signs” and the priority should be to prevent the spread of the disease.
The total number of confirmed cases of the infection until Monday evening was 217; at least seven more suspected cases were reported from different parts of China.
A Chinese woman was hospitalised with the Coronavirus in South Korea’s Seoul on Monday after disembarking from a flight from the city of Wuhan in central China where the virus is said to have originated.
One person in Japan and two more in Thailand have also been diagnosed with the disease.
Taking note of the situation, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Monday that the country will curb the spread of an outbreak of pneumonia caused by a new coronavirus, state television reported.
“People’s lives and health should be given top priority and the spread of the outbreak should be resolutely curbed,” it quoted Xi as saying.
The spread of the virus has sparked fears of a wider outbreak as the travel rush for the upcoming Chinese New Year (CNY) holidays peaks this week.
More than three billion trips are expected to be made during a 40-day rush for the CNY holidays.
All three deaths were reported from Wuhan, a university city with a population nearly 11 million and thousands foreign – including Indian – students.
The city has reported 198 cases so far.
As of 6 pm on Monday, at least five cases of the disease have been reported in Beijing, two in Shanghai and as many as 14 in the southern province of Guangdong.
The numbers are set to rise, experts said with a WHO official reiterating the possibility – and danger – of human-to-human transmission.
“It is clear that there is at least some human-to-human transmission from the evidence we have, but we don’t have clear evidence that shows the virus has acquired the capacity to transmit among humans easily,” said Takeshi Kasai, the WHO’s regional director for the western pacific, in an interview with Bloomberg TV on Monday. “We need more information to analyse that.”
“At present, there is no special cure for this new coronavirus and [we are] conducting some tests with animals,” Zhong was quoted by Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post as saying.
“We expect the number of infected cases will increase over the Lunar New Year travel period and we need to prevent the emergence of a super-spreader of the virus,” Zhong added.