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Japan confirms case of Wuhan coronavirus


Japan has confirmed a case of a mystery virus that first emerged in China and is from the same family as the deadly SARS pathogen, authorities said yesterday.

It appears to be only the second time the novel coronavirus has been detected outside China, after the WHO confirmed a case in Thailand.

The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said that a man who had visited the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the apparent epicenter of the outbreak, was hospitalized on Friday last week, four days after his return to Japan after he reported a persistent fever.

Tests on the patient, who was released from the hospital on Wednesday, confirmed that he was infected with the new virus.

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“This is the first domestic discovery of a pneumonia case related to the new coronavirus,” the ministry said in a statement. “We will continue active epidemiological research while also coordinating efforts with the World Health Organization and related agencies to conduct a risk assessment.”

The outbreak has caused alarm because the new virus is from the same family as the pathogen that causes SARS, which killed 774 people worldwide, including in Taiwan.

Authorities in Wuhan said that a seafood market was the center of the outbreak.

It was closed on Jan. 1.

Japanese authorities said that the man had not visited the market and that it was possible he had been in contact with a person infected with the virus while in Wuhan.

The risk of the disease spreading from the patient was considered low and there have been careful checks on those who had been in close contact with him, ministry official Eiji Hinoshita told reporters.

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“At this point, we feel it is unlikely this will lead to a dramatic outbreak [in Japan],” he said, adding that the patient no longer had a fever and was recuperating at home.

Officials declined to give further information on the man, including his nationality, citing privacy concerns.

Japan would need to raise its guard ahead of the Lunar New Year, a popular travel period in China, Hinoshita said.

“It is expected that Japan will see many visitors from China,” he said.

The woman diagnosed in Thailand, who is in a stable condition, also said that she had not visited the Wuhan seafood market.

In Vietnam, two Chinese visitors from Wuhan who arrived at Da Nang International Airport on Tuesday have been put in isolation and are under observation for the disease.

The Vietnamese Ministry of Health, which sent a team to the coastal city, said that it on Wednesday held an emergency meeting on prevention efforts for the new coronavirus.

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