The number of cases of a new type of viral pneumonia linked to a food market in central China has risen to 44, local health authorities said Friday, in an outbreak awakening fearful memories of the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic.
An emergency notification issued Monday by the Wuhan municipal health committee said hospitals in the city have treated a "successive series of patients with unexplained pneumonia", without offering details.
The authority said neither had been to the South China Seafood City and it wasn't clear if there was a direct connection to those patients in Wuhan.
World Health Organization announced that China was free of SARS in May 2004. Ko said the patient in Princess Margaret Hospital was in a stable condition.
Tony Ko Pat-sing, chief executive of the Hospital Authority, said three people were admitted to Princess Margaret Hospital, Tuen Mun Hospital and Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital as suspected cases, but their fevers had already gone, and two were sent home. For the time being, no obvious human-to-human transmission has been observed and no healthcare workers have been infected.
Hong Kong on Friday launched new measures to check the body temperature of those arriving from Wuhan in China to prevent the possible spread of an unknown pneumonia-like disease.
Suspected cases will then be referred to hospitals for further assessment, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Thursday, adding that it is monitoring the situation closely.
Rumors on social media suggested a link to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), but officials were quick to shut those down and said several were facing punishment for spreading false information. The city has hasn't received any Wuhan-related severe pneumonia cases, Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan told reporters Thursday.
"Since we are now in the holiday season, and Hong Kong has close transport ties with Wuhan, we must stay alert". Despite the fact that additional infections have been confirmed, it's still believed that the virus doesn't pass from person to person, as no medical staff or relatives of those who are infected have been diagnosed with the same illness. Taiwan has implemented similar measures, its Centers for Disease Control said Tuesday.
On Jan. 2, Taiwan News reported that a 6-year-old child who arrived in Taiwan on December 31 after passing through Wuhan has developed a fever and is being closely monitored.
The cause of a mysterious lung infection in China continues to elude disease-trackers as the number of reported cases in the outbreak climbs.
Chinese state media outlets have stressed that the cause of the current illnesses remains unknown, that fears of a new SARS epidemic are premature, and that the country has a robust system for dealing with epidemics.