New virus identified in China after pneumonia
The mysterious illness contracted by 59 patients in central China is said to be caused by a new virus, belonging to the same family as the sinister memory SARS, Chinese health authorities announced on Thursday.
The disease appeared last month in the big city of Wuhan (11 million people), initially raising fears of a resurgence of SARS that killed more than 600 people in mainland China and Hong Kong between 2002 and 2003.
The hitherto unknown strain is a coronavirus, a family with a large number of viruses.
These can cause most often mild illnesses in humans (such as a cold) but some such as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) or MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) have led to serious epidemics.
A team of experts “preliminarily established” that a new type of coronavirus was responsible for the disease, said researcher Xu Jianguo of the Chinese Academy of Engineering quoted by the China news agency on Thursday. news.
“A total of 15 positive cases of the new type of coronavirus have been detected” so far, said Mr. Xu, head of the team of experts who studied the pathogen.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed the results of Chinese research from its Beijing office.
“More studies are needed to determine the source, the modes of transmission, the extent of the contamination and the measures implemented to fight” the disease, declared in a press release the representative of the WHO in China, Gauden Galea.
“According to Chinese authorities, the virus can cause serious problems in some patients,” said WHO on Wednesday, but “it does not spread quickly.”
The latest official assessment of the epidemic shows 59 infected people, among whom the disease declared between 12 and 29 December, including seven seriously affected, the others being in stable condition.
Eight patients, who were cured, were allowed to leave the hospital, the China News Agency said on Wednesday.
Affected patients have been quarantined, according to Municipal Commission of hygiene and health of Wuhan.
“No patient has died yet,” said the commission, whose investigation determined that several patients were sellers from a local market specializing in the wholesale of seafood and fish. .
Images filmed on January 1 by the national television CCTV show a poster affixed at the entrance to the market in question, specifying that the site is closed “due to pneumonia”.
Chinese authorities have ruled out a re-emergence of SARS, which killed nearly 800 people worldwide in the early 2000s.
They announced last week that they had sanctioned eight people for “publishing or retransmitting false information on the internet without verification”. The nature of these sanctions has not been specified.
Transport under surveillance
The epidemic comes as the Chinese are preparing, as they do every year, to carry out “the biggest migration in the world” on the occasion of the Lunar New Year, when millions of rural people leave the big cities to return home.
A senior official in the Ministry of Transport said Thursday that the authorities had planned “disinfection, control and prevention” measures in the busiest places, such as stations.
For the WHO, Dr. Galea said that “people with symptoms of pneumonia or having traveled to Wuhan (had) been identified at international airports”.
The organization does not recommend any travel restrictions to China. The Embassy of the United States, on the other hand, advised to avoid contact with the sick or animals.
Hong Kong and Taiwan, for their part, have strengthened controls on arrivals from mainland China.
In the former British colony, where sales of respiratory masks were skyrocketing, 38 people with flu-like symptoms from Wuhan have been hospitalized in recent days, but the new virus has not been identified in their homes.