Several Wuhan virus victims did not have fever; it may be harder for govts to detect infections

A staff member checks the body temperature of passengers as they arrive at a railway station in Yingtan City, Jiangxi province, China, on Jan 22, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - Several people who have died from a new virus in China did not display symptoms of fever, potentially complicating global efforts to check for infected travellers as they arrive at airports and other travel hubs.

Details released by China's National Health Commission show five of the 17 people who died after being infected with novel coronavirus displayed other symptoms such as breathing difficulty, chest tightness and coughing.

The oldest victim, an 89-year-old man, was suffering from drowsiness and incontinence, as well as a fever. He sought medical help on Jan 5 and died on Jan 18. He had pre-existing conditions, including hypertension.

The absence of fever in some cases indicates that temperature screening, the most common measure being used at transport links and airports to check travellers, may not identify some infected people.

At least nine victims had pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, coronary artery disease and Parkinson's disease, the National Health Commission said.

Eight were aged 80 or over, two were in their 70s, five in their 60s and one in his 50s.

The youngest was a 48-year-old woman with a pre-existing condition.

Four of the victims were women and the rest were men.

China has banned travel from Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus outbreak, essentially putting the capital of central China's Hubei province - with a population of 11 million people - under lockdown. The virus has already spread to other parts of the country and elsewhere, including the United States and Hong Kong, triggering memories of the Sars pandemic in 2003 that killed nearly 800 people.

Hong Kong on Thursday (Jan 23) suspended high-speed rail ticket sales to Wuhan, nearly 600km away, according to Radio Television Hong Kong, while Macau's government cancelled Chinese New Year festivities.

The holidays begin in earnest on Friday, heaping pressure on Chinese authorities trying to contain the virus as hundreds of millions of people travel to their hometowns in the biggest migration of humans on the planet.

The World Health Organisation is meeting on Thursday to determine a strategy for the outbreak.

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