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Wuhan in all-out effort to curb outbreak of virus

By ZHOU LIHUA in Wuhan and WANG XIAODONG in Beijing | China Daily | Updated: 2020-01-17 04:21
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Authorities in Wuhan, Hubei province, have intensified efforts to prevent the spread of a virus that has caused a pneumonia outbreak in the city, resulting in one death so far.

Outside China, a second case linked to the virus has been reported in Japan, following a case in Thailand.

All outbound travelers from Terminal 3 of Wuhan Tianhe International Airport, a major airport in Central China, have had to receive temperature tests before boarding flights since Wednesday, and those displaying fever symptoms are quarantined, the airport authority said on Thursday.

The airport authority said it had requested airlines to cooperate with affected travelers in refunding or changing tickets for free.

At Wuhan Railway Station, employees told China Daily on Thursday that they had received notification from the authorities to start checking travelers' temperatures.

In the waiting room of Wuchang Railway Station, another major railway station in the city, medical services were provided to passengers in need on Thursday.

Forty-one confirmed cases of pneumonia caused by a new coronavirus had been reported in the city as of Wednesday night, including seven people who were cured and discharged from the hospital, six still in critical condition and one death, according to the Wuhan Health Commission.

The city authorities had traced 763 people who had close contact with the patients as of Wednesday night, and 313 of them were still under medical observation. Observation of the others had been discontinued, the commission said, adding that it has intensified monitoring and search efforts in hospitals and clinics across the city to identify suspected cases.

People confirmed to have the illness mostly displayed symptoms of fever and coughing at the early stage of the disease, it said.

Although investigations have shown no clear evidence that the new coronavirus can be transmitted between human beings, the possibility of human-to-human transmission cannot be ruled out, it said earlier.

Japan confirmed its first case of the virus, public broadcaster NHK reported on Thursday, quoting officials from Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. The man was released from a hospital after his condition improved, and no related sickness has been found in his family or among the medical staff who treated him, the report said.

Earlier this week, the World Health Organization urged all countries to intensify monitoring and preparedness following the confirmation of the first case of the virus outside China.

"The possibility of cases being identified in other countries was not unexpected," it said in a statement following the case in Thailand.

The US State Department issued a health alert update on Wednesday about travel to the Wuhan area. It referenced a Watch Level 1 Alert by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which urged people traveling in the region to avoid contact with animals, animal markets and animal products, among other precautions, Reuters reported.

Thai health authorities said on Wednesday they were stepping up monitoring of passengers arriving at airports ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, when 800,000 Chinese tourists are expected to visit the country, the report said.

China's National Health Commission and the WHO did not respond to questions from China Daily on Thursday.

Wang Yuedan, an immunology professor at Peking University's Health Science Center, said he thought the virus would not spread globally to any great extent, due to the limited capacity of its human-to-human transmission.

In addition, the disease control and prevention measures taken by the authorities in Wuhan, such as temporary quarantines of people who have had close contact with patients, are very strict, and a pandemic similar to the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak in 2003 is unlikely, he said.

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