News Scan for Dec 31, 2019

News brief

Chinese officials probe unidentified pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan

Health officials in China are investigating the cause of a pneumonia outbreak in the city of Wuhan in Hubei province that has sickened 27 people and seems to be linked to a seafood market.

Government officials in Hong Kong and Taiwan detailed what's known from mainland sources, and infectious disease news reporting sites such as FluTrackers, Avian Flu Diary, and ProMED Mail have been tracking official and media reports.

In a statement today, Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection (CHP), citing provincial health commission sources, said that, of 27 patients, 7 are in serious condition and the rest are stable. The main symptom is fever, but some patients have had shortness of breath.

Wuhan health officials said the pneumonia appears to be viral and that the patients are in isolation. No obvious human-to-human transmission has been observed, and no healthcare worker infections have been reported.

So far, the cause of the outbreak is still under investigation. News of the outbreak triggered rumors of possible severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Virologist Leo Poon, DPhil, a SARS expert from Hong Kong University, told Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), a public broadcasting service in Hong Kong, that it's too early to say the outbreak is a SARS event. He added that the emergence of atypical pneumonia cases requires identifying the responsible pathogen and ruling out SARS or other types of coronaviruses.
Dec 31 CHP statement
Dec 31 RTHK report
Dec 31 FluTrackers thread
Dec 31 Avian Flu Diary post
Dec 30 ProMED Mail post


Ebola case detected in former DRC hot spot, Katwa

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Ebola technical committee (CMRE) said today that one of the two most recent cases was from Katwa, signaling a return to the city after 88 days without one.

Over the past few weeks, the virus has returned to a few other former hot spots, including Butembo and Kalunguta.

In other developments, one more case has been reported in the outbreak, lifting the overall total to 3,377 cases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) online dashboard. Health officials are still investigating 443 suspected cases. The number of deaths held steady, at 2,232.
Dec 30 CMRE update
WHO online Ebola dashboard


New fatal MERS case recorded in Saudi Arabia

The Ministry of Health (MOH) of Saudi Arabia reported a new MERS-CoV case from earlier this month.

The case-patient was a 70-year-old man from the city of Hafar Al Batin in the northeastern part of the country. The man died from complications of his Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection. The MOH also said the man had camel contact, a common risk factor for MERS.

This is the fourth MERS case recorded in Saudi Arabia in December. In November the MOH noted 12 cases.

The WHO said in an update earlier this month that, since MERS-CoV was first detected in humans in 2012, it has received reports of 2,484 cases, at least 857 of them fatal. The vast majority were reported from Saudi Arabia.
Dec 20 MOH

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