Mysterious virus: China announces fourth death, suspicious case in Australia


HEALTH – A new SARS family virus appeared a month ago in China. Health officials fear a spread. Four people have already died.

A fourth person, an 89-year-old man, has succumbed to the new virus that has spread across China, local authorities announced on Tuesday January 21. The old man died on Sunday January 19 after having had difficulty breathing, in Wuhan, the city of the center of the country where the epidemic started which infected more than 200 people, specified the local health commission in a statement.

Human-to-human transmission

More than a month after its appearance on a market in Wuhan, the virus, of the SARS family (severe acute respiratory syndrome), now affects several major cities in the country, including Beijing and Shanghai, and three other countries in Asia: Japan, South Korea and Thailand. The virus is causing growing concern in China and surrounding countries, in the middle of a crossover on transport before the Chinese New Year, Saturday, January 25. This period, which traditionally sees crowded stations and airports, is an additional risk factor for the spread of the virus.

A suspicious case in Australia

This Tuesday, the Australian television channel ABC revealed that a man returning from China and presenting the symptoms of a mysterious virus, close to SARS and transmissible between humans, was placed in solitary confinement at his home. The man, who is believed to be the first suspected case of this new coronavirus in the country, recently returned from Wuhan. The patient is recovering from a respiratory illness at his home in Brisbane, a city in the northeast of the country. Health officials are awaiting the results of tests to determine whether or not he has contracted this new virus.

Zhong Nanshan, a renowned Chinese scientist with the National Health Commission, told state television CCTV on Monday that contagious transmission between people was “proven”. The offending strain is a new type of coronavirus, a family with a large number of viruses. They can cause mild illnesses in humans (like a cold) but also other more serious ones like Sras.

Read also

  • Viruses in China: recommendations for travelers and what to do in case of doubt
  • Pneumonia: a new coronavirus detected in China

This expert had helped assess the scale of the SARS epidemic in 2002-2003. It had killed 774 people worldwide (including 349 in mainland China and 299 in Hong Kong) out of 8,096 cases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO announced the holding of an emergency meeting on Wednesday to determine whether to declare a “public health emergency of international concern”, a qualification which is used only for the most serious epidemics.

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