Published: Fri, January 03, 2020
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

No answers yet in China's pneumonia outbreak

No answers yet in China's pneumonia outbreak

News of the sudden outbreak led to online speculation of a link to the highly contagious severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

Eleven of those infected were in critical condition and the rest stable, they said, adding that all had been isolated and doctors were observing 121 people with whom they had been in close contact.

A team of experts from the National Health Commission (NHC) rushed to Wuhan in central China's Hubei province on Tuesday and are "currently conducting relevant inspection and verification work", state broadcaster CCTV reported.

China on Friday confirmed more cases of a mystery viral pneumonia that has sparked fears about a resurgence of SARS, the flu-like virus that killed hundreds of people more than a decade ago. For the time being, no obvious human-to-human transmission has been observed and no healthcare workers have been infected.

"The cause of the disease is not clear", the official People's Daily newspaper said on Weibo, citing unnamed hospital officials.

Most of the cases have been traced to the South China Seafood City food market in the suburbs of sprawling Wuhan, where offerings are reported to include wild animals that carry viruses unsafe to humans. According to the Wuhan health department, at least a couple of hospitalized individuals saw their conditions improve enough to be discharged, pending a quarantine hold and further testing.

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"Investigations are still being carried out and authorities can not yet confirm what pathogen is causing this illness", World Health Organization senior adviser Paige Snider said in a statement.

Another 298 individuals contracted and died from SARS in Hong Kong during the same period - which explains Hong Kong health officials' urgency concerning the recent pneumonia outbreak.

In 2003, Chinese officials covered up a SARS outbreak for weeks before a growing death toll and rumours forced the government to reveal the epidemic.

The disease, which emerged in southern China in late 2002, spread rapidly from south China to other cities and countries in 2003. It seems that many of those who have been infected with the virus worked in the seafood industry and ran stalls at the Huanan seafood market, according to reports.

Wuhan police this week said they had summoned eight people who "posted and forwarded false information online, causing adverse social impact".

China sacked its then health minister Zhang Wenkang for the poor handling of the crisis in 2003, several months after the first case was reported. "We can not confirm it is what's being spread online, that it is SARS virus".

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