Human-to-human transmission has been confirmed in an outbreak of a new coronavirus, the head of a Chinese government expert team said Monday.
Team leader Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory expert, said two people in Guangdong province in southern China caught the disease from family members, state media said.
The National Health Commission task force also found that some medical workers have tested positive for the virus, the English-language China Daily newspaper said.
Human-to-human transmission could make the virus spread more quickly and widely. The outbreak is believed to have started from people who picked it up at a fresh food market in the city of Wuhan in central China.
Zhong said the two people in Guangdong had not been to Wuhan but family members had returned from the city, the China Daily said.
Authorities elsewhere also announced cases in other Chinese cities for the first time.
Five individuals in Beijing and 14 in Guangdong have also been diagnosed with the new coronavirus, CCTV reported Monday evening. Seven suspected cases have been found in other parts of the country, including in Sichuan and Yunnan provinces in the southwest and in Shanghai.
Thailand, Japan, South Korea report cases
Zhong said the two people in Guangdong had not been to Wuhan but fell ill after family members had returned from the city, the China Daily said.
The outbreak has put other countries on alert as millions of Chinese travel for Lunar New Year.
Authorities in Thailand and in Japan have already identified at least three cases, all involving recent travel from China.
South Korea reported its first case Monday, when a 35-year-old Chinese woman from Wuhan tested positive for the new coronavirus one day after arriving at Seoul’s Incheon airport. The woman has been isolated at a state-run hospital in Incheon city, just west of Seoul, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement.
At least a half-dozen countries in Asia and three U.S. airports have started screening incoming airline passengers from central China.
The virus belongs in the same family of coronaviruses as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 800 people globally during a 2002-03 outbreak that also started in China. In Canada, 44 people died, many of them health-care workers.
What are public health officials saying in Canada?
- The virus belongs in the same family of coronaviruses as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) told CBC News Sunday that “the overall risk of disease spread to Canada is considered low.”
- Canada has no direct flights from Wuhan, and the volume of travellers arriving indirectly from Wuhan is low, PHAC said.
- PHAC said it will be “implementing additional measures” in the coming week, including warning signs at airports in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.
- U.S. officials have said they will begin screening travellers coming from Wuhan at three major airports — New York City’s JFK International Airport, San Francisco International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport.