HK team chases virus data as Thai case confirmed

Top News | Staff Reporter 14 Jan 2020

Mainland authorities should reveal more information about the novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan promptly, an expert said as a team from Hong Kong headed to the Hubei provincial capital yesterday to seek more information about the pneumonia it causes.

This follows genetic sequencing by Chinese experts finding that the virus that seems to have spread through animals from a Wuhan wet market is 80 percent similar to the one involved in the deadly SARS outbreak in 2003.

Under secretary for Food and Health Chui Tak-yi is leading the SAR team that includes the Department of Health's head of communicable diseases, Chuang Shuk-kwan, and the Hospital Authority's chief infection control officer, Raymond Lai Wai-man.

They aim to learn about health measures taken to combat the disease and clinical handling of patients, though time will be short: the party returns today.

The World health Organization, meanwhile, confirmed that a Chinese woman - who arrived in Thailand on a flight from Wuhan - carried the novel coronavirus, the first person to be detected with it outside China. The 61-year-old was among 12 ill passengers who were quarantined since January 3, after they arrived at different Thai cities. She is recovering after treatment and will be allowed to go home in a few days, Thai health officials said.

Local respiratory expert David Hui Shu-cheong of Chinese University said the SAR administration and health and medical people in Hong Kong had to rely on updates of the Wuhan disease through news reported by mainland media.

"We hope to get more information directly from authorities," he said. "It's of utmost importance to cut the source of the virus to control its spread."

And the International Society for Infectious Diseases noted: "There are other wet markets in China that may have animals from the same area. We still do not know the host or possible intermediary hosts of this virus."

It cautioned about massive people movement in China and the Asian region during the Lunar New Year.

Mainland authorities have reported to the WHO that among 41 confirmed cases of pneumonia linked to the virus there has been one death - a 61-year-old man with serious underlying medical conditions.

At the Hua Nan Seafood Wholesale Market, apparently the cockpit of the virus, officers in full protective gear were on patrol inside the market after it was closed for cleaning on January 1.

But few people passing by wore masks.

"I don't think it's very serious," a local resident said. And the operator of a store near the market added: "There's nothing to worry about. The market has been cordoned off for disinfection."

Back in Hong Kong, a 38-year-old woman was admitted to Princess Margaret Hospital with a fever and respiratory infection after returning from Wuhan, taking the number of local suspected cases to 68.

And the CUHK's Hui said rapid diagnostic tests will be ready in a week to detect the Wuhan virus.

But none of the cases in Hong Kong has proven to be linked to the new coronavirus, Hui said, though in some cases the virus was too weak to be tested.

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