Two Aussies in China have coronavirus

By | January 30, 2020

Two Australians in China have been infected with coronavirus, Health Minister Greg Hunt has confirmed.

Mr Hunt told reporters they are being treated and are not seeking consular assistance at this stage.

They were in Guangdong province, not Hubei province where the majority of cases have been located.

It follows confirmation of seven cases of coronavirus across Australia including two cases in Victoria.

The latest patient was a man in his 60s who travelled to Wuhan City in China and is now being isolated while he recovers.

Victoria’s chief health officer Dr Brett Sutton said the man became sick on January 23, two days after returning from China and had remained isolated except for attending dinner with his family on Australia Day.

The man ate at The House of Delight restaurant in Glen Waverley in Melbourne’s southeast with five family members between 5.30pm and 7pm.

Dr Sutton urged anyone who was at the restaurant during this time to be aware of symptoms.

But he also sent a message of caution.

“That restaurant is OK to go to now, people don’t need to avoid the area or indeed anywhere else,” he said.

However, the restaurant appears to have closed until February 9, a sign on its door suggests.

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The man’s three adult and two child relatives have been isolated with him. One has already tested negative for the virus, while the children are being kept from school.

Up to 14 people in Victoria await results of their tests, while another 61 have tested negative.

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The second case in Victoria, along with Queensland’s first case confirmed on Wednesday evening, raised the national count to seven.

Australia’s chief medical officer is now recommending anyone who has travelled in the Hubei province to self-isolate for 14 days after leaving the province.

SPREADING AMONG PEOPLE OUTSIDE CHINA

World health officials, back from a visit to Beijing, expressed great concern Wednesday that the new coronavirus spreading between people outside of China, even as the number of illnesses continue to grow dramatically inside that Asian nation.

The new virus has now infected more people in China than were sickened during the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak.

On Wednesday, the number of cases jumped to 5,974, surpassing the 5,327 people diagnosed with SARS.

The death toll, which stood at 132 Wednesday, is lower than the 348 people who died in China from SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome.

Scientists say there are still many questions to be answered about the new virus, including just how easily it spreads and how severe it is.

The World Health Organisation’s emergencies chief told reporters on Wednesday that China was taking “extraordinary measures in the face of an extraordinary challenge” posed by the outbreak.

Dr Michael Ryan spoke at a news conference after returning from a trip to Beijing to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other senior government leaders.

He said the epidemic remains centred in the city of Wuhan and in Hubei province but that “information is being updated and is changing by the hour.”

Ryan said the few cases of human-to-human spread of the virus outside China – in Japan, Germany, Canada and Vietnam – were part of the reason the UN health agency’s director-general has reconvened an expert committee to meet Thursday. It will assess whether the outbreak should be declared a global emergency.

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To date, about 99 per cent of the nearly 6,000 cases are in China.

Ryan estimated the death rate of the new virus at 2 per cent, but said the figure was very preliminary.

With fluctuating numbers of cases and deaths, scientists are only able to produce a rough estimate of the fatality rate and it’s likely many milder cases of the virus are being missed.

In comparison, the SARS virus killed about 10 per cent of people who caught it.

The new virus is from the coronavirus family, which includes those that can cause the common cold as well as more serious illnesses such as SARS and MERS.

Ryan noted there were several aspects of the new virus outbreak that are extremely worrying, citing the recent rapid spike in cases in China.

He said that while scientists believe the outbreak was sparked by an animal virus, it’s unclear if there are other factors driving the epidemic.

“Without understanding that, it’s very hard to put into context the current transmission dynamics,” he said.

Meanwhile, countries began evacuating their citizens from the Chinese city hardest-hit by the virus.

Chartered planes carrying about 200 evacuees each arrived in Japan and the United States early Wednesday as other countries planned similar evacuations from the city of Wuhan, which authorities have shut down to try to contain the virus.

– with AAP and AP

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