Mysterious pneumonia outbreak in China: 44 cases. Fears for a return of Sars
Authorities are trying to identify the cause of the infection. Between 2003 and 2004, severe acute respiratory syndrome killed 349 people in mainland China and 299 others in Hong Kong. The World Health Organization (WHO) criticized China for underestimating the number of cases.
Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The number of confirmed cases of a mysterious viral pneumonia in China is increasing. Some fear it is a new epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), a flu-like virus that killed hundreds of people over 10 years ago. According to reports yesterday by the health authorities of Wuhan (capital of the province of Hubei), the 27 infections reported last December 31 have become 44.
In a statement, the Wuhan Health Commission says that "patients' vital signs are generally stable." Doctors are still trying to identify the cause of the infection, but rule out "flu, bird flu, adenovirus infection and other common respiratory diseases." Sars, a disease caused by a coronavirus, is not mentioned in the document.
But rumors circulated on the internet at the beginning of last week suggest that the epidemic could be linked to the disease, which is highly contagious. On January 1, Wuhan police said they convicted eight people of "publishing or transmitting false information online without verification."
The Health Commission declares that all patients receive treatment in isolation and that the city is monitoring how many have come in close contact with them. Some of the sufferers are employed in a fish market in the city, but "no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission" has been found so far.
Two women in Hong Kong have been hospitalized with fever and symptoms of respiratory infections or pneumonia, bringing the number of cases reported in the city since December 31 to five. The Hong Kong hospital authority says the two women, aged between 12 and 41, had been in Wuhan for the past two weeks. They are in isolation and in stable condition.
Following the Sars epidemic in 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) criticized China for underestimating the number of cases. That year, the disease killed 349 people in mainland China and 299 others in Hong Kong. According to WHO, the virus - which has infected 8,000 people worldwide - originated in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong. In May 2004, the international body announced that China was free from SARS.