HONG KONG - Chinese authorities have reported a second death from a mystery virus that has left dozens of people ill in the city of Wuhan, while Thailand has found a second case of the new coronavirus.
The Wuhan health authorities reported late on Thursday (Jan 16) that a 69-year-old man, who was first taken ill on Dec 31, died on Wednesday at the Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital in Hubei province after his symptoms became more severe on Jan 4, with pulmonary tuberculosis and multiple organ functions damaged.
The first death from the mystery virus occurred in China on Jan 9. The victim was a 61-year-old man who had serious underlying medical conditions.
There has been growing regional concern over the outbreak of pneumonia in Wuhan that has been linked to a new coronavirus strain.
The family of pathogens is behind diseases ranging in severity from the common cold to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), which killed hundreds in Asia in 2002 and 2003. Coronaviruses cause symptoms like those of the common cold, and are spread through sneezing, coughing, or direct contact.
JAPAN, THAILAND'S CONFIRMED CASES
On Friday, the Thai authorities said a Chinese woman, 74, had been quarantined since her arrival in Thailand on Monday and was found to be infected with the newly identified coronavirus, as the country ramped up checks of Chinese visitors ahead of the Chinese New Year holidays.
This is the second confirmed case in Thailand after a 61-year-old Chinese woman was on Monday reported to be infected with the virus, the first time it was detected outside China. She had been hospitalised for high fever and breathing difficulties. She is now in a stable condition.
Meanwhile in Japan, the authorities said on Thursday that a man in Kanagawa prefecture had fallen ill after visiting Wuhan.
Health managers in Japan and Thailand said these patients had visited Wuhan prior to their hospitalisations.
The authorities in Wuhan said a seafood market was the centre of the outbreak. It was closed on Jan 1.
The patient in Japan and the first Thailand patient had not reported visiting the market, though Japanese officials said it was possible that the patient in Japan, who is his 30s, had been in contact with a person infected with the virus while in Wuhan. He was discharged on Wednesday.
HONG KONG STEPS UP MONITORING
After the news of the Japanese case emerged, Hong Kong authorities stepped up their monitoring of the disease, ordering private doctors to report cases of fever and respiratory infection in anyone who had been in a mainland hospital or come into contact with anyone who had the new virus, broadcaster RTHK reported.
Previously, doctors had been required to report such symptoms to the Centre for Health Protection only for patients who had actually been to Wuhan.
There were 78 suspected cases in Hong Kong as of Thursday, of whom at least 66 have been discharged. There have been no confirmed cases of the disease in Hong Kong so far.
Wuhan has recorded a total of 41 cases of the new virus. The Wuhan health commission said in a statement late Thursday that 12 people have recovered and been discharged from hospital, while five others were in serious condition.
SINGAPORE, VIETNAM'S SUSPECTED CASES
In Singapore, a third suspected case was reported on Thursday. The Ministry of Health said a 69-year-old man who travelled to Wuhan has been diagnosed with pneumonia.
The man, a Singaporean, had not visited the seafood wholesale market in Huanan, from whence the new bug is thought to have emerged. Investigations are ongoing to establish whether his illness is linked to the Wuhan disease cluster.
The two other suspected cases before him proved to be false alarms.
Meanwhile, two Chinese tourists with fever symptoms from Wuhan were quarantined by Vietnam's Ministry of Health and are now under observation after they landed at Danang International Airport on Tuesday.
Hanoi dispatched a medical team to the coastal city and called an emergency meeting on Wednesday on prevention efforts.
The World Health Organisation, which has said that the virus has "some limited human-to-human transmission", is not taking any chances and has warned of a potential wider outbreak.
The region is gearing up on precautionary measures, with an expected surge in Chinese visitors during the Chinese New Year holiday later this month, with more stringent health monitoring checks and quarantine procedures for those who visited Wuhan recently.
Many countries in the region, including Japan and Indonesia, are stepping up health screening of inbound travellers.
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a Level 1 "Watch" alert for travellers to Wuhan, saying they should practise normal precautions and avoid contact with animals and sick people.