No answers yet in China's pneumonia outbreak

No answers yet in China's pneumonia outbreak

That has triggered worries about the potential jump of an unknown virus to humans - reminiscent of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or Sars, which killed nearly 800 people about 17 years ago.

A unusual pneumonia-like infection that first popped up in the Chinese city of Wuhan just days ago is beginning to spread, with the total number of infected individuals climbing from 27 to at least 44.

All patients in the Wuhan outbreak have been held in isolation and their close contacts are under medical observation.

The authority said neither had been to the South China Seafood City and it wasn't clear if there was a direct connection to those patients in Wuhan. Paige Snider, senior advisor to the WHO's China office, told the paper that investigations are still underway and authorities haven't yet confirmed the pathogen that's causing the illness.

However, two female patients in Hong Kong who had recently traveled to Wuhan were admitted to the hospital after presenting symptoms of fever and respiratory infection or pneumonia, yet authorities said neither had visited the South China Seafood City market.

The most common symptom was fever, with shortness of breath and lung infections appearing in a "small number" of cases, the commission said, without giving further details. No obvious human-to-human transmission had been found and no medical staff had been infected, the commission said.

Health officials in Hong Kong report closely monitoring a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, Hubei Province. The city has not received any Wuhan-related severe pneumonia cases, Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan told reporters on Thursday.

As Chinese scientists continue their probe of an unusual viral pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan, local officials yesterday closed the seafood market that was linked to the cases, as governments in nearby Asian destinations stepped up their surveillance in travelers and at hospitals.

News of the sudden outbreak led to online speculation of a link to the highly contagious severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

'We can not confirm it is what's being spread online, that it is SARS virus.

Every day, there are four trains that run between Hong Kong and Wuhan. Taiwan has reportedly implemented similar procedures.

On Jan. 2, Taiwan News reported that a 6-year-old child who arrived in Taiwan on December 31 after passing through Wuhan has developed a fever and is being closely monitored.

In 2003, Chinese officials covered up a SARS outbreak for weeks before a growing death toll and rumors forced the government to reveal the epidemic, apologize and vow full candor in future outbreaks.

Since the first SARS epidemic, no additional cases of the virus have been reported so far worldwide.

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