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'Wuhan virus probably is spreading between people'

2020-01-04 HKT 15:43
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  • 'Wuhan virus probably is spreading between people'
Jimmy Choi reports
The head of the University of Hong Kong's Centre for Infection, Ho Pak-leung, has warned that the city should implement the strictest possible monitoring system for a mystery new viral pneumonia that has infected dozens of people on the mainland, as it is highly possible that the illness is spreading from human to human.

The government says monitoring has already been stepped up at all the entry points into Hong Kong, with staff checking whether any arrivals are suffering from fever, and an increased use of infrared detection machines at the airport.

But Ho said on Saturday that so many infections in such a short period of time in Wuhan is worrying, and the SAR authorities should use every monitoring tool at their disposal at all of the city's borders, including the high-speed rail terminus.

Since New Year's Eve, the authorities in Wuhan have reported 44 people coming down with pneumonia where the cause is unknown. Eleven of those have been described as "severe cases".

Hong Kong hospitals have treated eight people in the past few days who fell sick during or after visiting Wuhan.

Mainland authorities have already ruled out bird flu and other common respiratory diseases, with state media quoting experts as saying the virus appears to be similar to Sars, which killed 299 people in Hong Kong and at least 349 on the mainland, in 2003.

Wuhan officials also said on Friday that no evidence of human to human transmission has been found so far.

But Ho said it is possible that the virus can be passed from person to person, and this is likely to have already happened in the Wuhan outbreak.

The microbiologist also warned that there could be a surge in cases during the upcoming Chinese New Year.

Ho said he hopes the mainland will release more details as soon as possible about the patients infected with the disease, such as their medical history, to help experts analyse the illness and to allow for more effective preventative measures to be put in place.