Recent Outbreak Of Mysterious Respiratory Illness In China Puts Asia On High Alert

A first suspected case of the mysterious virus has been identified in Singapore.

Cover image via Nikkei Asian Review & Khaw Boon Wan/Facebook

An investigation has been carried out by Chinese authorities after a mysterious viral pneumonia infected dozens of people in the central city of Wuhan

In a report by BBC, officials said on Friday, 3 January, that 44 cases have been confirmed so far, including 11 of which are considered to be "severe".

According to Nikkei Asian Review, the 11 patients that remain in critical condition are experiencing respiratory tract infection symptoms, such as fever and breathing difficulties. 

Image via BBC

There has been speculation online that the virus could be linked to the highly contagious severe acute respiratory syndrome, better known as SARS virus

"Investigations are still being carried out and authorities cannot yet confirm what pathogen is causing this illness," said WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic, as quoted by New Straits Times.

In the report by Nikkei Asian Review, University of Hong Kong microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung said that the viral infection in Wuhan shared similarities with the 1997 outbreak of bird flu and the SARS epidemic in China that caused hundreds to perish worldwide in 2002-2003.

Yuen also added that there are chances that animals also transported the virus in the latest outbreak.

However, he has urged the public not to worry as nothing significant has yet to be identified.

Health workers evacuating 'infected patients' from a building during a SARS outbreak drill in Hong Kong in 2004.

Image via Nikkei Asian Review

The outbreak has promoted authorities in Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and other Asian countries to carry out emergency measures

The Star reported that Malaysian health authorities will implement temperature screening of passengers arriving on flights from Wuhan, China, where the outbreak originated.

"We will monitor the international entry points to ensure that arrivals from Wuhan go through temperature screening, and if temperature is detected, a second examination will be carried out at the quarantine centre," the Health Ministry's Disease Control Division (DCD) said in a statement issued yesterday, 4 January, as quoted by The Star.

Meanwhile, Singapore's Changi Airport has also started screening those coming from Wuhan since yesterday morning, 4 January

"We are monitoring the pneumonia situation in Wuhan closely. There is no evidence of people-to-people transmission, so will likely be just a normal fever outbreak," Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan said in a Facebook post on Saturday.

"But after SARS in 2003, we cannot be complacent. In any case, it is a good occasion to remind and to exercise the public health measures," Khaw added.

However, it was recently reported that the first suspected case of the Wuhan pneumonia has been identified in Singapore

According to CNA, as of 2pm yesterday, 4 January, the Singaporean Ministry of Health (MOH) was notified of a three-year-old female Chinese national with pneumonia who had travelled to Wuhan, where a seafood wholesale market has been associated with a cluster of pneumonia cases.

The girl has been warded in Singapore and is currently isolated as a precautionary measure.

However, she is in a stable condition and preliminary tests showed that she is positive for Respiratory Syncytial Virus, a common cause for childhood pneumonia.

"Investigations are ongoing to confirm this as the cause," MOH said, as quoted by CNA.

Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, where some of the viral pneumonia cases originated.

Image via South China Morning Post

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