HONG KONG • The number of patients in Hong Kong who are affected by the still mysterious Wuhan flu jumped to 15 yesterday.
The overnight increase of seven more patients has prompted the city's authorities to activate a newly created "serious response" level, as fears spread that the infectious disease might have been imported into the city by visitors to Wuhan.
At least 59 people in Wuhan, an inland city west of Shanghai, about 900km north of Hong Kong, are being treated for the viral pneumonia-like illness that is said to have originated from a wet market there.
Hong Kong Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu Chee said that the city had been in close contact with the relevant mainland authorities.
"People are also reminded not to visit the wet market or eat wild animals when travelling," she said.
The latest seven patients are aged between 22 and 55. The South China Morning Post reported that all of them were in stable condition and were quarantined in four different hospitals in the city.
The serious response level indicates a moderate impact on Hong Kong's population of 7.5 million people.
It is the second highest in a three-tier system that is part of a new government plan to respond to infectious diseases of unknown cause.
The city's health department had put more thermal imaging cameras at Hong Kong's airport to check the body temperature of arriving passengers.
More staff have also been assigned for temperature checks at the West Kowloon high-speed rail station that connects Hong Kong to the mainland.
Meanwhile, Chinese healthcare authorities in Wuhan confirmed that the illness was not severe acute respiratory syndrome, Middle East respiratory syndrome or bird flu, even as they are still working to identify the cause and source.
Of the 59 patients so far, seven are in critical condition. Another 163 are under observation for having contacts with the other patients who had fever, with shortness of breath and lung infections.
Most of the cases were traced to the South China Seafood City food market, which has since been disinfected.
There have been no clear indications of human-to-human transmission of the disease.
Singapore's first suspected case not linked to Wuhan cluster: MOH
Singapore's first suspected case of the mystery Wuhan virus, involving a three-year-old girl from China with pneumonia and a travel history to the Chinese city, is not linked to the cluster there, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said yesterday.
But as medical practitioners are on the lookout for patients with pneumonia who have recently returned from Wuhan, Singapore is likely to see more suspected cases that will need to be investigated, the ministry added. MOH said it will continue to monitor the situation closely.
On the girl, it said: "Epidemiological investigations, clinical assessment and laboratory test results from the suspect case... have found the case is not linked to the pneumonia cluster in Wuhan."
She also tested negative for severe acute respiratory syndrome, or Sars, and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, or Mers-CoV. The cause of her pneumonia is respiratory syncytial virus, a common cause of childhood respiratory infection.
MOH added that there were no new suspected cases as of 3pm yesterday. It had said on Saturday it had been notified of the first suspected case of the Wuhan virus here. The girl was warded for further assessment and treatment, and isolated.
Yesterday, MOH said travellers to Wuhan should monitor their health closely and seek medical attention immediately if they feel unwell.