Virus Outbreak: Journal prints letter describing person-to-person infection

By Chang Tsung-chiu  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Feb 14, 2020 - Page 1

A letter signed by five doctors at Changhua Christian Hospital describing a case of what is believed to be a local person-to-person transmission of COVID-19 was published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In a letter addressed to the editor, the doctors described the transmission of the virus from a woman who had lived in Wuhan, China, to her husband.

“On Jan. 25, 2020, a 52-year-old woman with a history of type 2 diabetes presented with fever to an emergency department in central Taiwan,” the letter said.

“She was admitted to the hospital because of suspicion of pneumonia associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection,” it said, referring to the official name of the virus that causes COVID-19.

The woman returned to Taiwan on Jan. 20, the letter said, adding that she had been living in Wuhan for about three months.

Another passenger on the same flight was identified as the first known imported case of COVID-19 in Taiwan, it said.

“Fever and myalgia developed in the woman on Jan. 25, a total of five days after she returned to Taiwan from Wuhan,” the letter said. “She reported that she did not have cough, dyspnea, chest pain, or diarrhea.”

The woman on Jan. 27 tested positive for the virus, becoming the fifth confirmed imported case of COVID-19, it said.

The letter described her condition and treatment, saying: “As of Feb. 11, she remained hospitalized, but her vital signs were stable and she was not receiving oxygen therapy.”

The patient’s husband, 50, who became the nation’s eighth case, developed symptoms on Jan. 25 — the same day as his wife, it said.

“This suggests transmission shortly after his wife returned to Taiwan,” the letter said.

The husband “works primarily at home” and “reported that he had not traveled to any region where SARS-CoV-2 transmission was known to be occurring,” it said.

He was confirmed to have the disease on Jan. 28, the letter said, adding that the husband was also hospitalized as of Wednesday, but that his vital signs were stable.

“Local transmission of SARS-CoV-2 infection occurred in this couple in Taiwan. So far, no secondary case from this couple has been identified,” the letter said.

Changhua County Public Health Bureau Director Yeh Yen-po (葉彥伯) praised the correspondence, saying that its publication proved the standard of Taiwan’s prevention and treatment efforts.

The publication of the report “really helps the international community to better understand the transmission and pathogenesis,” Alex Ma (馬徹), director of the Chemical Biology Division at Academia Sinica’s Genomics Research Center, wrote in an e-mail replying to questions by the Taipei Times.

“Bravo to the Taiwanese team,” Ma added.

Additional reporting by Sherry Hsiao