Korea: First case of SARS-like virus confirmed

Laverne Higgins
January 23, 2020

Of the 198 patients in Wuhan itself, three have died.

"In the early days of SARS, reports were delayed and covered up," said an editorial in the nationalistic Global Times.

The coronavirus has so far killed at least 17 people in the country and infected more than 500 others.

Chinese authorities and the World Health Organization (WHO) say a new strain of coronavirus is behind the outbreak of pneumonia in the central city of Wuhan. Other suspected cases, pending confirmation, are eight people in Shenzhen, quarantined, and five in Zhejiang.

According to the Health Commission of Hebei Province, an 80-year-old man died on Wednesday but the fact that his death was caused by the new coronavirus was only confirmed on Thursday. The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission reported Saturday that seven other people are in critical condition.

The spread of the outbreak comes as the country gets ready for the Lunar New Year holiday later this week.

But WHO's Asia office tweeted this week that "there may now be sustained human-to-human transmission", which raises the possibility that the epidemic is spreading more easily and may no longer require an animal source to spark infections, as officials initially reported.

Japan also confirmed one case of a Japanese citizen who visited Wuhan.

All of those cases involved people who had either come from or been in Wuhan recently.

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Meanwhile, health officials in South Korea on Monday confirmed the country's first case of the disease.

Some experts say it may not be as deadly as some other coronavirus types such as SARS, which killed almost 800 people worldwide during a 2002-03 outbreak that also originated from China.

Her infection was confirmed on Monday, when she was in stable condition and being treated in an isolation unit at a medical facility.

Korea's CDC said the woman had visited Wuhan, Hubei province, last week and was now being treated at a local hospital.

And Thailand said it was already screening passengers arriving in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket and would soon introduce similar controls in the beach resort of Krabi. Some people said they had cancelled their travel plans and were staying home for Lunar New Year.

Four cases have been confirmed overseas - all of them involving people from Wuhan or who had visited the city.

But officials say they have yet to completely understand the route of infection.

The Chinese government is keen to avoid a repeat of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, another coronavirus that started in southern China in late 2002 and spread to more than two dozen countries, killing almost 800 people. Japan confirmed its first case two days later, but as recently as last weekend - and despite a second death in China from the virus - no screening was taking place in airports in the United Kingdom or Australia. They attributed the spike in new cases to improvements in detection and monitoring.

In Wuhan, pharmacies limited sales of face masks to one package per customer as people lined up to buy them.

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