Humans could become vectors for new coronavirus but risk low, say China health authorities
Of the 41 people infected with the virus, one is a married couple.Updated: Jan 15, 2020 11:27 IST
Chinese health authorities, for the first time, have said it is possible that the new coronavirus which has sparked fears of an outbreak as hundreds of millions begin travelling in China and outside for the upcoming Chinese New Year (CNY) holidays could be passed through human contact but the risk of person-to-person transmission is low.
At least one person has been killed and dozens infected by the new virus, which can cause respiratory illness and has influenza-type symptoms.
The announcement from the health authorities from Wuhan city in central China’s Hubei province came after it was confirmed that an infected person who travelled to Thailand was from Wuhan and undergoing treatment in a Thai hospital near Bangkok.
At least three other Chinese travellers from Wuhan were diagnosed with fever in Thailand but they were found not to have been infected with the new coronavirus.
On Tuesday, the Geneva-based World Health Organisation (WHO) also said that there may have been limited human-to-human transmission of the new coronavirus in China within families and that the possibility of a wider outbreak could not be ruled out.
Wuhan’s health commission told Chinese state media that people in close contact with the traveller were under medical observation but no symptom of the disease had been found in them yet.
“The commission said that they found no evidence that the new coronavirus can be passed on via people, but they cannot completely rule out the possibility. However, such risk is low, and further research is underway,” a state media report said.
Of the 41 people infected with the virus, one is a married couple.
“A married couple was among the confirmed cases. The husband had been working at the seafood market where the virus was first detected, while the wife wasn’t exposed to it in the market,” said the Wuhan health commission official.
The initial big clue to this outbreak, detected in December, that most patients had exposure to a single seafood and live animal market in Wuhan.
Reports said all the infected fell ill between December 8 and January 2.
The Wuhan health commission also that among the 41 cases, most were men and the majority had been exposed to the seafood market.
Their preliminary symptoms included fever and coughing. Elderly people with other health issues were likely to have more serious effects if they became infected.
“Close contacts of the confirmed infected people will be put under close observation for 14 days; and if they show any symptoms, they will be sent to hospital for further examination,” said the commission.
The death of a patient on January 11 coincided with the beginning of China’s annual travel rush on Friday for the CNY holidays comprising some three billion trips in 2020.
Over the next 40 days, more than half-billion people will pack into trains, buses and passenger aircraft to travel home and elsewhere amid the lurking fear of the pneumonia outbreak - and whether the passengers will become vectors for the disease.
According to WHO, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause infections ranging from the common cold to SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome).