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Mysterious Illness Triggers Emergency Border Controls Across Asia

“Chinese authorities have launched an investigation into a mysterious viral pneumonia which has infected dozens of people in the central city of Wuhan. A total of 44 cases have been confirmed so far, 11 of which are considered severe.” – BBC

Jan 3, 2020

The Asian Review, HONG KONG — Asian governments are stepping up precautionary measures to prevent an outbreak of a mysterious illness after Chinese health authorities reported 44 cases of a “viral pneumonia of unknown origin” amid concerns that the flu-like virus is linked to the highly contagious SARS virus that caused hundreds of deaths in Asia and elsewhere 17 years ago.

The outbreak prompted authorities in Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia to take emergency measures, including stricter health control at borders and temperature screenings on all flights from Wuhan, in China’s central Hubei Province, where the outbreak originated.

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Chinese officials said on Friday that 11 patients remained in critical condition with respiratory tract infection symptoms, including fever and breathing difficulty.

Health authorities in Hong Kong were on high alert following five cases of patients developing symptoms of respiratory infections and fever after visiting Wuhan, about four hours by train from Hong Kong.

Two of the patients have been discharged from the hospital following a full recovery and a third has tested negative for SARS, influenza and avian flu. The government said on Friday evening that two others are awaiting test results.

“No serious pneumonia cases linked to the Wuhan outbreak had been reported in Hong Kong so far,” Sophia Chan, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Food and Health, said late Thursday night.

The Hong Kong government has rolled out new prevention measures, including a daily announcement of any suspected cases, installing additional thermal imaging systems at Hong Kong International Airport, as well as increasing steps to clean and disinfect incoming express trains and planes from Wuhan.

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“Investigations are still being carried out and authorities cannot yet confirm what pathogen is causing this illness,” a senior adviser with the World Health Organization in China told the South China Morning Post on Wednesday, adding that it has set up an incident management team to “ensure disease detection systems are sensitive, communication channels are open, and reporting is rapid across the region.” READ MORE. 

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