Wuhan pneumonia outbreak: Japan confirms first case of infection
TOKYO: Japan confirmed the first case of infection from the new China coronavirus that has killed one person and prompted a travel alert from the US State Department.
A man in his 30s from Kanagawa prefecture, next to Tokyo, tested positive, Japan’s health ministry said in a statement on Thursday (Jan 16).
The man had been to the Chinese city of Wuhan, where there has been an outbreak of pneumonia believed to be caused by the new coronavirus strain, it said.
Japanese authorities said 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 the city.
This is the second reported case of the virus being been detected outside China, after a Chinese tourist in Thailand was quarantined earlier this month.
The Japanese patient was hospitalised on Jan 10, four days after his return to Japan. He was released yesterday after the symptoms subsided, according to the health ministry statement.
“This is the first domestic discovery of a pneumonia case related to the new coronavirus,” the ministry added.
“We will continue active epidemiological research while also coordinating efforts with the World Health Organization and related agencies to conduct a risk assessment.”
Health ministry official Eiji Hinoshita told reporters that the risk of the disease spreading from the patient was considered low, with careful checks done on those who had been in close contact with him.
“At this point, we feel it is unlikely this will lead to a dramatic outbreak,” he said, adding that the patient was no longer suffering a fever and was recuperating at home.
Officials declined to give further information on the man, including his nationality, citing privacy concerns.
Hinoshita said Japan would need to raise its guard ahead of the Lunar New Year, a popular travel period in China.
“It is expected that Japan will see many visitors from China,” he said.
Thai health authorities said on Wednesday they were stepping up monitoring of passengers arriving at airports ahead of the Chinese New Year holiday, when 800,000 Chinese tourists are expected to visit the country.
The US State Department issued a health alert update on Wednesday about travel to the Wuhan region.
It referenced a Watch Level 1 Alert by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urging citizens travelling in the region to avoid contact with animals, animal markets or animal products, among other precautions.
In all, 41 cases of pneumonia have been reported in Wuhan.
The Chinese outbreak of pneumonia appears to be linked to Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in the city centre -where multiple pneumonia patients worked. It is still cordoned off after being shut down on Jan 1.
One of the 41 patients reported in Wuhan could have been infected by her husband, local health authorities said on Wednesday.
The woman had no history of exposure to the seafood market, but her husband – who had been diagnosed with the virus – worked there, said Wuhan officials.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause infections ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Some of the virus types cause less serious disease, while some – like the one that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) – are far more severe.