A second person has died from coronavirus in China amid fears the lethal outbreak may spread globally, officials have said.
The 69-year-old man, named only as Xiong, died in the early hours of January 15 at Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan city.
He had been admitted to hospital on December 31 with symptoms of the virus, said officials at the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission.
Medical treatment failed to save him after his health deteriorated on January 4, local media claims.
A total of 41 patients in Wuhan have been struck with pneumonia caused by the virus since December. The first death, on January 9, was a man aged 61.
The news comes on the same day Japan confirmed its first case of infection – a man in his 30s from Tokyo who had recently visited Wuhan.
It was the second time the virus has been detected outside China, after a 61-year-old woman was quarantined and treated in Thailand. She had also visited Wuhan.
Since two cases have been identified outside the country, the World Health Organization has warned hospitals worldwide to prepare for a potential global spread.
The coronavirus, which causes cold-like symptoms including a runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat and a fever, has never been seen before and has not yet been named.
Officials have described the virus in China, a tourist hotspot for some 595,000 British tourists each year, as ‘novel’.
Tests have so far shown it is a new type of coronavirus from the same family as the deadly SARS pathogen which killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in the early 2000s.
Forty-one cases have been contained in the Chinese city of Wuhan – home to 11million people – since December and dozens more have been hospitalised as suspected patients.
Among the 41 confirmed cases, 12 people have recovered and been discharged, five people are serious and under treatment, two people have died and the rest are in stable condition.
A statement revealed today that a second death was declared at 12.45am on January 15 after medical treatment failed.
Xiong, whose second name has not been revealed, fell ill on December 31, 2019. His condition worsened on January 4 and he was transferred to the Jinyintan Hospital of Wuhan.
He had severe cardiomyopathy – a heart condition, abnormal kidney function, and seriously damaged organs. It is not clear if these were complications of the virus or underlying conditions.
The first death, a 61-year-old man, was reported by Wuhan Municipal Health Commission last week.
He died on January 9, having been the first person hospitalised after suffering shortness of breath and severe pneumonia.
The man, who also suffered from abdominal tumours and chronic liver disease, had been a frequent customer at a seafood market on Wuhan’s outskirts.
Several other patients worked at the seafood market in Wuhan’s suburbs. It has since been closed and investigated as a potential source of the strain.
Although the virus was initially thought to be transmitted by animals, the WHO said there is now ‘limited evidence’ of human-to-human transmission.
The first identified case outside of the country in Thailand last week raised concerns the virus could cross borders.
The woman, a Chinese national who was on holiday in Thailand, was quarantined on January 8. She was able to return home to China in a stable condition.
Japan’s government said on January 16 a man treated for pneumonia after returning from China had tested positive for the new coronavirus.
Dr Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust said: ‘News of a case in Japan is extremely concerning – but it is not surprising that we are starting to hear of more cases in other countries.
‘It is possible that the often mild symptoms from this coronavirus may be masking the true numbers of people who have been infected, or the extent of person to person transmission.
‘It is probable that we are looking at patients being affected over a number of days from multiple animals sources and with some degree of human to human transmission.
‘Ongoing research, with prompt and full data sharing between the teams now working together across China and globally on building the information, is vital to ensuring the correct response to this outbreak.’
Countries in Asia, including Japan, Thailand and Singapore, have stepped-up surveillance at airports in response to the flurry of cases.
Temperature scanners identify people who have a fever, who will then be separated and given more thorough tests.
A surge of tourists are expected in the coming days, as hundreds of millions of people in China travel around January 25 for Chinese New Year.
Dr Farrar said: ‘Wuhan is a major hub and with travel being a huge part of the fast approaching Chinese New Year, the concern level must remain high.’
Hospitals have also been alerted of the potential threat of spread. Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, acting head of WHO’s emerging diseases unit, said hospitals worldwide had been given guidance about infection control.
This includes the potential of ‘super spreading’ in health care settings, which is when a few ill patients can transmit the virus to dozens at a time.
Discussing the potential spread of the virus, Dr Kerkhove said: ‘This is something on our radar, it is possible, we need to prepare ourselves.’
Some hospitals in China have already been directed to report cases of fever in anyone who has travelled to Wuhan in the past 14 days.