Unknown Strain of Pneumonia Hits China, Creates Disquiet in Asia

Chinese health officials have excluded the chances of bird flu and MERS and the resurgence of SARS.

Unknown viral pneumonia has affected more than 50 people in the Chinese city of Wuhan. According to the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission, seven of these patients are in critical condition. So far, no deaths have been reported, and all the patients are receiving treatment in quarantine. Wuhan health authorities have ruled out the odds of the mystery virus being bird flu, Middle East respiratory syndrome, and severe acute respiratory syndrome. The patients include some of the employees of a seafood market in Wuhan. There are concerns that the mysterious pneumonia may have spread from the live animals sold at the market.

“The concern now is whether the game (animal) is one of the reasons for the outbreak,” Chinese University of Hong Kong’s respiratory expert Professor David Hui Shu-cheong told CNN. He was referring to the game sold at a Wuhan seafood market. According to local media, the market also sold snakes, rabbits, birds, and other live animals.

Asia steps up preventive measures such as screening

“If it only transmits from animals to humans, there will be low chances for people to be infected, now that the market has been sanitized and shut down,” said a SARS expert and Hong Kong University’s virologist, Professor Leo Poon.

The spread of unknown viral pneumonia in China has made other Asian countries nervous. Airport temperature screening is one of the preventive measures that Asian governments are adopting to avoid the entry of the mysterious virus in their countries. The timing of the current outbreak in Wuhan is also concerning, taking into account the international trips of scores of Chinese around Lunar New Year, which is celebrated in January. WHO mentioned in its recent news release that there is not much information available to assess the risk of Wuhan’s pneumonia of unknown etiology.

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