Commentary on Political Economy

Monday 20 January 2020


China reports sharp rise in cases of Sars-like virus 
Authorities confirm infections outside of central city of Wuhan for first time There has been human-to-human transmission between close contacts, the World Health Organization said 

China has reported a sharp rise in the number of people infected with a Sars-like virus and confirmed cases outside of the central city of Wuhan for the first time, adding to concerns about the spread of the respiratory disease. Authorities in Wuhan said 136 patients had been infected with the virus, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the city to more than 190. Officials in Beijing said two patients had been diagnosed with the virus, while authorities in Guangdong province, which borders Hong Kong, confirmed one case.  More than 20 patients have been transferred from Wuhan to the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen to receive treatment, according to three people from Shenzhen People’s Third Hospital.

 The virus has killed three people and nine remain in critical condition since it was identified earlier this month. The World Health Organization said in a tweet on Monday that the latest outbreak had most likely started with an animal source but also noted there had been “some limited human-to-human transmission occurring between close contacts”. Most patients diagnosed with the virus have presented with relatively mild symptoms. Health authorities in Wuhan said on Monday that 25 patients have been released from hospital after recovering from the infection. Recommended ExplainerDisease control and prevention How dangerous is China’s latest viral outbreak? The outbreak has evoked memories of the Sars epidemic that killed nearly 800 people in 2003 after originating in China. Authorities have said the ailment was caused by a coronavirus, the same kind of pathogen involved in the Sars outbreak that Chinese officials covered up for months.

 A study by the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London estimated that more than 1,700 people in the city could have been infected with the disease by mid-January. The number of cases may have been under-reported because in younger or fitter patients the symptoms might not be serious enough to warrant seeking treatment, according to experts. South Korean authorities on Monday confirmed the country’s first case of the virus. A 35-year-old woman has been quarantined at a local hospital after arriving from China on Sunday, according to health officials. A patient diagnosed with the virus in Japan last week was released from hospital. Two people from Thailand diagnosed with the disease after travelling from Wuhan this month presented fever-like symptoms without becoming severely ill. Before this outbreak, six coronaviruses had been identified in humans. Four caused relatively mild cold-like symptoms while the other two, Sars and Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers), can be fatal. Additional reporting by Kang Buseong in Seoul

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