Pneumonia outbreak in China caused by novelcorona virus

According to the WHO, a total of 41 pneumonia cases have now been caused by the new virus. Most of the patients have been in contact with a market in the city of Wuhan.

Previously this month, a Chinese pneumonia outbreak was announced. It has now been established that the outbreak is caused by a new corona virus.

According to the WHO, a total of 41 pneumonia cases have been detected. Most of the cases have been in contact with a market in the million city of Wuhan, situated on the banks of the Yangtse river in mainland China, about 800 kms to the west of Shanghai.

61-year-old man dead

The affected patients have had symptoms of pneumonia, including fever, difficulty in breathing and radiological signs of pneumonia.

The virus has also caused the death of a 61-year-old man who had several severe chronic conditions.

The 41 cases were detected in the period from 8 December to 2 January.

"Close contacts to the infected persons have remained under observation, but no new cases have been detected in this group. Similarly, no healthcare staff have become infected. Therefore, we have no indications that the new virus may cause human-to-human transmission", notes Staff Specialist Peter Henrik Andersen from Statens Serum Institut (SSI).

The source of infection currently remains unknown

The infected patients were also tested for SARS and MERS, but tests were negative. Then, on 7 January, it was established that the cases had a novel type of corona virus nCoV.

The source of the outbreak has yet to be established. The majority of the cases have been in contact with the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan. Wild and domesticated animals are also sold at the market, and the Chinese health authorities are investigating if these animals have become infected with nCoV.

A single case in Thailand

The corona virus has also spread beyond Wuhan. The million city of Wuhan is a transport hub with a large airport which, among others, offers direct flights to England, France and Italy.

The first nCoV case outside of Wuhan was reported by Thailand on 13 January 2020. The affected patient is a Wuhan citizen. The patient fell ill on 5 January, travelled by plane to Thailand on 8 January and was admitted to hospital due to fever shortly after arriving there. X-rays revealed signs of pneumonia, and on 12 January it was established that the patient had nCoV. The patient has not visited the Huanan Market, but had been to other Wuhan markets where live animals are sold.

The ECDC assesses that the risk of spreading to Europe is low

“The case in Thailand indicates that the infection may have spread to other locations than the Huanan Market,” Notes Peter Henrik Andersen.

The authorities are therefore investigating other possible routes of nCoV infection - including a reservoir. Furthermore, they are investigating if asymptomatic or mild infections are occurring.

Chinese New Year is celebrated in late January 2020. Celebrations will bring considerable travel activity, both locally in China and internationally. It is assessed that this will increase the likelihood of additional local cases of infection with the novel coronavirus in other parts of China.

Even so, the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) assesses that the risk is low that we will see nCoV cases among travellers to Europe and therefore spreading of the new corona virus within Europe.