Wuhan reports second death from new coronavirus

Credit: Image source: PRNewsfoto/ByteDance Ltd.

The new coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan continues to spread. Within days of a Chinese tourist in Thailand becoming the first person to be diagnosed with the virus outside of China, the New York Times reports (porous paywall):

Japan’s Health Ministry said that a Chinese man in his 30s tested positive for the mysterious pneumonia-like coronavirus. The man…returned to Japan on January 6 after traveling to the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.

  • The man came down with a fever on January 3, was hospitalized on January 10, and discharged five days later. The woman in Thailand who was infected with the virus is also “in good health now,” according to a Thai Public Health Ministry official cited by the NYT.
  • One theory proposed by the World Health Organization and others is that the outbreak began at a particular “wet” market in Wuhan that sells seafood and other live animals. But neither the Japanese man nor the Chinese woman in Thailand say they visited that market, although the woman visited another, similar market in Wuhan.
  • The fear is that the virus is able to spread directly between people. The NYT quotes Malik Peiris, a public health virologist at the University of Hong Kong: “If that was the case, that there had been no direct exposure to animals, then that is very concerning, for sure.”
  • Now the Wuhan government is reporting a second death from the virus. According to the report (in Chinese), the patient was a 69-year-old man who fell ill with pneumonia-like symptoms on December 31, and died on January 15.
  • Wuhan “has reported a total of 41 cases of pneumonia caused by the new coronavirus infection,” according to the government report. Of these, 12 patients have been treated and discharged, while five are in critical condition in hospitals. The report does not say what has happened to the other 13 patients, but health authorities in the city are also tracking 763 “close contacts” of people who have been infected.
  • The first fatality, reported last week, was a 61-year-old man who was “a regular visitor to a market linked to the outbreak” and suffered from other health issues.
  • “After criticism surfaced about potential delays in sharing information, Chinese scientists have made six sequences of the virus available, which has allowed other researchers to rapidly develop diagnostic tests and begin synthesizing the virus so it can be studied in animal markets,” according to Science Magazine. “A major concern is the upcoming Lunar New Year on 25 January, during which hundreds of millions of people travel around the country and could potentially spread the infection.”