The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday issued a level-2 travel alert for Wuhan, China, following a field survey in the city by two Taiwanese experts, as well as Japan and Thailand confirming cases linked to a pneumonia outbreak.
The cause of the outbreak has been identified as a new type of coronavirus, with Chinese authorities saying that as of Wednesday, 41 people had been infected, including six in critical condition and one fatality.
CDC Communicable Disease Control Medical Network commander Chuang Yin-ching (莊銀清) and epidemic prevention doctor Hung Min-nan (洪敏南), who conducted the survey in Wuhan from Monday to Wednesday, yesterday told a news conference in Taipei that 30 percent of the Wuhan patients had no direct exposure to the Huanan Seafood City market, the suspected epicenter of the outbreak.
Photo: Wu Liang-yi, Taipei Times
During clinical visits, they observed that patients who are obese or have previously undiagnosed illnesses seemed to be at higher risk of serious complications, Chuang said.
The CDC hopes to clarify whether human-to-human transmission is possible, Hung said, adding that “limited human-to-human transmission” was possibly identified during their visit.
Limited human-to-human transmission generally means that people within 1m of an infected person for about 10 minutes could contract a disease, meaning members of the same household or medical professionals treating infected patients are at higher risk, the CDC said.
In the cases of a married couple infected in Wuhan, the husband worked at the market, but the wife, who had not recently been to the market due to limited mobility, might have contracted the illness from her husband, Hung said.
Of the 41 cases in Wuhan, nearly 70 percent had direct exposure to the market, but 13 patients did not, meaning the source of the outbreak remains a mystery, he said.
Possible explanations provided by China include limited human-to-human transmission, a two-week latent period and an unknown source of infection, Hung said, adding that Chinese authorities have stepped up efforts to collect animal specimens for research.
Chinese authorities have prohibited people who have had close contact with patients from leaving Wuhan, hoping to curb the spread of the disease, Chuang said.
Taipei would not prohibit Taiwanese in Wuhan from returning to Taiwan, CDC Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said, adding that people traveling to Wuhan should avoid traditional markets and hospitals, as well as contact with wild animals or livestock.
As the Lunar New Year is approaching, the agency said that it has intensified border inspections, while Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said that as it is the high season for influenza, people should get vaccinated as early as possible.
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