TOKYO: Japan confirmed the first case of infection from the new China coronavirus that has killed one person and prompted a travel alert from the US State Department.
A man in his 30s from Kanagawa prefecture, next to Tokyo, tested positive, Japan’s health ministry said in a statement on Thursday (Jan 16).
The man had been to the Chinese city of Wuhan, where there has been an outbreak of pneumonia believed to be caused by the new coronavirus strain, it said.
This is the second reported case of the virus being been detected outside China, after a Chinese tourist in Thailand was quarantined earlier this month.
The Japanese patient returned from Wuhan this month with a fever and was hospitalised. He was released yesterday after the symptoms subsided, according to the health ministry statement.
Thai health authorities said on Wednesday they were stepping up monitoring of passengers arriving at airports ahead of the Chinese New Year holiday, when 800,000 Chinese tourists are expected to visit the country.
The US State Department issued a health alert update on Wednesday about travel to the Wuhan region.
It referenced a Watch Level 1 Alert by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urging citizens travelling in the region to avoid contact with animals, animal markets or animal products, among other precautions.
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In all, 41 cases of pneumonia have been reported in Wuhan.
The Chinese outbreak of pneumonia appears to be linked to Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in the city centre -where multiple pneumonia patients worked. It is still cordoned off after being shut down on Jan 1.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Tuesday that there could be a wider outbreak, and that it is possible the virus may have “limited human-to-human transmission”.
One of the 41 patients reported in Wuhan could have been infected by her husband, local health authorities said on Wednesday.
The woman had no history of exposure to the seafood market, but her husband – who had been diagnosed with the virus – worked there, said Wuhan officials.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause infections ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Some of the virus types cause less serious disease, while some – like the one that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) – are far more severe.