Health officials in New South Wales are investigating if a person has contracted the deadly 2019-nCoV, a coronavirus originating from the Chinese city of Wuhan, just hours after a flight arrived from the city into Sydney.
In a press conference on Jan. 22, New South Wales Chief Health Officer Dr. Kerry Chant said authorities are currently investigating one potential case of the virus and that doctors will soon know if they are infected or have something minor such as a common cold.
“We have one case that is currently under investigation. We are able to rapidly undertake testing of cases that come to our attention and either exclude or confirm those cases in a very short time frame,” Chant said.
“Whilst we are announcing today we have one case under investigation, that number will obviously change, it may change by the time I go back to the office, and so that number will be a revolving number.”
Chant added that authorities will provide regular updates on confirmed cases of the virus but did not elaborate on the age or location of the individual currently being examined.
She also noted that it is currently the flu season in China which may be the reason why travelers returning from the country are suffering from a cough and fever.
China Eastern flight MU749 was the last one to leave the city of Wuhan before it was placed on lockdown this week, with outbound trains and planes temporarily shut down.
All public transport services have also been suspended in the city which has a population of 11 million, as authorities attempt to contain the virus.
Scores of people in China have been infected with the deadly disease. It has since spread to at least four other countries in Asia which are Thailand, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.
On Jan. 21, a man who had recently returned from Wuhan to Washington state in the United States was confirmed to have contracted the virus.
Dr. Jeremy McAnulty, Director of Health Protection at NSW Health, said advice is being provided to travelers who may have already returned to NSW from Wuhan as it can take up to two weeks for symptoms of the virus to develop.
“Symptoms of the virus include a fever with respiratory symptoms such as a cough, sore throat, or shortness of breath,” McAnulty said.
“There is no need for alarm, but people should be aware of the emerging situation and if they develop symptoms on returning from affected areas overseas, they should call ahead before seeing their GP.
“This virus does not appear to spread easily between people, but anyone with symptoms should practice simple hygiene by covering their coughs and sneezes with a tissue or their elbow and washing their hands thoroughly.”
Health workers in NSW public hospitals as well as community-based GPs have also been issued precautionary advice to help them identify and apply infection control measures for any cases of the infection.
What Is Coronavirus?
Health experts have been comparing the Wuhan virus with SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), all belonging to a family of viruses known as coronaviruses.
It is believed to have originated from animals before spreading to humans, but health experts do not yet know which animal may have caused the current outbreak in Wuhan.
“What we know is it causes pneumonia and then doesn’t respond to antibiotic treatment, which is not surprising, but then in terms of mortality, SARS kills 10 percent of the individuals,” Leo Poon, a virologist at the School of Public Health at the University of Hong Kong, told CNN.
Symptoms of the virus include sickness, runny nose, cough, sore throat, and sometimes a headache which may last for a few days. It is usually accompanied by an upper respiratory tract illness and can be more severe in older people.