Leading Chinese doctor investigating the coronavirus outbreak has caught the killer infection


A leading Chinese doctor investigating the killer coronavirus has admitted he has caught the SARS-like infection.

Wang Guangfa, who heads the department of pulmonary medicine at Beijing’s Peking University First Hospital, was part of a team of experts that earlier this month visited Wuhan, where the virus first emerged.

‘I was diagnosed and my condition is fine,’ Dr Wang told Kong’s Cable TV. He said he is receiving treatment and will have an ‘injection’ soon.

Dr Guangfa is one of the national experts that previously said the pneumonia-causing virus, which has never been seen before, was under control.

And in a further twist in the outbreak, furious families in China have today accused hospitals of not testing patients with tell-tale symptoms.

Cases have cropped up across Asia, including in South Korea, Thailand, Japan and Taiwan, with officials yesterday confirming the virus has spread between humans.

And in a further twist in the outbreak, furious families in China have today accused hospitals of not testing patients with tell-tale symptoms.

MailOnline can also reveal: 

Dr Guangfa, who conducted research on Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, did not give details on how he may have been infected.

He added that he was receiving treatment, although it is not clear how the new virus is halted in patients. Dr Wang said he will have an ‘injection’ soon. 

‘I don’t want everyone to put too much attention on my condition,’ he told the channel.

Dr Guangfa told state media on January 10 that the outbreak appeared to be under control, with most patients showing mild symptoms and some having been discharged.

He could not be reached by Reuters today. 

The outbreak is believed to have started late last month among people connected to a seafood market in Wuhan, where all six fatalities have happened.

State media reported on a fourth victim this morning – an 89-year-old man who lived in Wuhan.

The mayor of the city later revealed there had been two more deaths – a 66-year-old man, known only as Li, and a 48-year-old woman, known only as Yin. Both died from multiple organ failure.

But families of sicked loved who have died of mystery respiratory diseases in recent weeks believe the true number of cases and deaths is far higher, The Guardian reports.

On the microblog Weibo, Wuhan residents have shared stories of family members who had shown symptoms of the virus, but not been tested for it at hospital.

One posted images of her mother’s diagnosis of viral pneumonia and described long queues of patients with similar symptoms late on Monday night, none of whom appeared to have been tested for coronavirus. 

‘Could all these people suddenly have viral pneumonia?’ she said. 

Professor Zhong Nanshan, leader of the National Health Commission’s expert team, revealed the virus is likely to be spread by saliva in a press conference today.

He told the meeting: ‘As of now, it is affirmative that the new strain of coronavirus can be passed between humans. 

‘The virus is spread through respiratory system and distance of impact is not long, but it is possible that the virus was passed after being stuck to saliva.’

Professor Zhong said officials must ‘quarantine the patients and stop them from contacting others’. Antibiotics will not tackle the virus because the drugs only work on bacterial infections.

And he added that the outbreak will not spread like SARS, so long as patients are quarantined immediately and their contacts are traced.   

A leading expert told MailOnline the new Chinese coronavirus may have been lurking in animals for decades.

Sir Jeremy Farrar, a renowned specialist in infectious disease epidemics, said the virus isn’t new but has likely adapted to infect humans.  

Experts from the country’s National Health Commission this morning urged Wuhan’s residents not to leave the city. 

Zhou Xianwang said there has been a total of 258 cases in Wuhan. Twelve cases have been recorded elsewhere in Hubei province, where Wuhan is the capital. Officials in the Chinese city have said they will pay for all medical costs for patients infected with the virus.

Other cases have been confirmed today in Tianjin – a port city just outside of Beijing, as well as in a host of other provinces.

In a statement issued this afternoon, Hubei Province announced five new cases among healthcare workers, including one doctor and four nurses. 

Taiwanese media this morning confirmed a case of the coronavirus. The unnamed woman, in her fifties, worked in Wuhan and had returned to Taiwan, CNA reports. 

And North Korea has temporarily banned all tourists from entering the country over fears the Chinese coronavirus will spread, according to reports this afternoon.

Two foreign tour operators revealed officials in the Hermit Kingdom told them borders will close tomorrow until the outbreak is ‘well under control’.

A South Korean budget airline has also announced it will postpone the launch of its cheap flights to Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak.

T’way Air said the decision was ‘inevitable’ given the spiralling number of cases, with 325 people across Asia now confirmed to have the virus.  

Reports also state face masks are flying off the shelves across China as the country’s citizens prepare themselves for the potential spread of the outbreak, which has already swept the nation.

Pictures and videos circulating on the country’s social media show residents in various cities queuing to stock up on the medical products. 

Professor John Oxford, a virologist at Queen Mary College, admitted he was ‘quaking in my shoes’ over the potential spread of the virus that could happen over the Chinese New Year.

He told LBC: ‘None of us have faced a new virus faced with so many people in a community travelling around. 

‘That’s what’s going to happen in China at the end of the week. Once they are close together in taxis or small rooms, then there may be a problem.’  

And Professor Oxford added: ‘The only way to stop it is physical cleaning and social distance – keeping away from people.’  

Locals have made more than four million trips by train, road and air since January 10 in the annual travel rush for the most important holiday in the country.

The transport peak season will last until February 18 and see three billion trips made within China, according to official statistics.

The US National Institutes of Health is working on a vaccine against the virus, according to reports. But it added that it would be months before a potential jab could be trialed on humans.

Dr Peter Hotez, a vaccine scientist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said a team of scientists in Texas, New York and China, told CNN that scientists are working on a vaccine.

He said: ‘The lesson we’ve learned is coronavirus infections are serious and one of the newest and biggest global health threats.’

Australian officials today announced a traveller had been placed in quarantine with symptoms of the virus after returning home from a trip to China.

The man is being kept at his home in Brisbane as he awaits test results for the virus. Earlier tests were inconclusive, Queensland health chiefs said.

The suspected case prompted Prime Minister Scott Morrison to warn Australians travelling to China to ‘exercise a high degree of caution’ in China’s Wuhan area. 

The authorities in Wuhan are taking their own precautions and are using infrared thermometers to scan people from a distance to try and pick out possible cases.

Scanners have been put in place at airports, railway stations and coach stops around the city. 

Medics have also been filmed reportedly scanning people’s heads to take their temperatures on-board a flight leaving Wuhan on Monday.

The Philippines also announced today that it was investigating its first potential case of the coronavirus.

A five-year-old child arrived in the country on January 12 from Wuhan and has since been hospitalised with flu symptoms.

While the child tested positive for a virus, authorities in Manila said they were not sure if it was the same one that has killed six people in China.

‘The child is considered a person under investigation,’ Philippine health secretary Francisco Duque told a press briefing in Manila.

Samples from the child were sent to a laboratory in Australia for further testing and authorities are awaiting the results.

The child had a fever, throat irritation and a cough before arriving in the central city of Cebu with a parent, the health department said.

Three other travellers from China were checked by authorities at another airport, but they did not show symptoms that corresponded with the coronavirus. 

Increased control measures have been enforced at many places, with scientists still uncertain of the outbreak’s nature and mode of transmission.

But Professor Zhong Nanshan, of China’s National Health Commission, said human-to-human transmission was ‘affirmative’ in a press conference yesterday.

‘Currently, it can be said it is affirmative that there is the phenomenon of human-to-human transmission,’ he said, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

Two patients in southern China caught the virus from infected family members, and had not visited a seafood market thought to be at the centre of the outbreak. 

Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market has been closed and under investigation since January 1 as scientists scramble to determine where the virus has come from. 

A total of 322 people in Asia have now tested positive for the virus, which marks a sharp increase from the 48 on January 17. 

The outbreak has spread within China, with cases recorded in Guangdong province, as well as Beijing and Shanghai. 

People in China have been urged not to panic and to try and enjoy the festive season.

A piece in Chinese newspaper the Global Times said on Sunday: ‘The entire Chinese society should be vigilant but should not be in panic. 

‘We should make the upcoming Spring Festival happy and peaceful, and also pay close attention to every link where the pneumonia may increase transmission.’

Three other countries have also reported cases of the virus – Thailand, Japan and South Korea. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) said earlier an animal source seemed to be ‘the most likely primary source’ of the virus.

Jeremy Farrar, a specialist in infectious disease epidemics and director of the Wellcome Trust global health charity, raised concerns about the number of people travelling through Wuhan.

He 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. 

‘There is more to come from this outbreak.’

He added that coughing is the ‘quickest way to spread an infection around the world’. 

‘Whenever you get something new happening in humans, especially when it is spread by coughing, it is always a worry. It could get worse, it could get better – but you have to plan for it getting worse,’ Mr Farrar told MailOnline.

China is entering its busiest travel period due to the Lunar New Year, which sees many people travelling back to their home town or village.

Countries including Japan, Australia and the US have adopted screening measures for those arriving from China due to concerns about a global outbreak like that caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which spread from China to more than a dozen countries in 2002 and 2003 and killed nearly 800 people.

An analysis from Imperial College London last week estimated the number of cases in Wuhan was probably around 1,700 – but could even be as high as 4,500. 

The team did not look at how the virus may be transmitted, but said ‘past experience with SARS and MERS-CoV outbreaks of similar scale suggests currently self-sustaining human-to-human transmission should not be ruled out.’ 

South Korea confirmed its first case on January 20 after a 35-year-old woman arriving at Seoul’s Incheon airport tested positive for the virus. She had been in Wuhan last week. 

Officials said she did not have an obvious source of infection, adding that she had not visited any wet markets and wasn’t in contact with any known cases.

Last week, one case was confirmed in Japan and two in Thailand, meaning the total number of confirmed cases outside of China now sits at five. 

The WHO, which will meet tomorrow to discuss listing the outbreak as an emergency, has only invoked such a status five times in the past.

These were during the last major Ebola outbreaks – last year and in 2014, the Swine flu outbreak in 2009, a resurgence of Polio in 2014, and the Zika outbreak in South America in 2016.

WHO’s Emergency Committee must convene to decide on the seriousness of a disease outbreak and the threat it poses to other countries before declaring a PHEIC. These are the incidents it has deemed serious enough in the past:

A British tourist fighting for his life in Thailand is feared to be the first Western victim, but this has not been confirmed. 

Ash Shorley, 32, is in critical condition in a hospital in Phuket after being struck down with a lung infection while visiting Koh Phi Phi island. 

Mr Shorley had to be transported to hospital by a specialised seaplane because his lung had collapsed and he could not cope with high altitude travel. 

Doctors revealed his symptoms were consistent with the Chinese coronavirus. He has been in hospital for nearly a month.

Public Health England maintains that the risk of travellers becoming infected is ‘very low’, and ‘low’ for those travelling specifically to Wuhan. 

Dr Nick Phin, a deputy director at PHE, said: ‘We have issued advice to the NHS and are keeping the situation under constant review.

‘People travelling to Wuhan should maintain good hand, respiratory and personal hygiene and should avoid visiting animal and bird markets or people who are ill with respiratory symptoms.

‘Individuals should seek medical attention if they develop respiratory symptoms within 14 days of visiting Wuhan, either in China or on their return to the UK, informing their health service prior to their attendance about their recent travel to the city.’ 

The new Chinese coronavirus may have been lurking in animals for decades, Sir Jeremy Farrar, a renowned specialist in infectious disease epidemics, has said.

The virus isn’t new but has likely adapted to infect humans. 

Officials say the never-before-seen infection emerged from an animal source, much like the deadly SARS, HIV and Ebola viruses. 

Authorities have pointed the blame on food markets in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak that scientists are scrambling to contain. 

Rodents and bats among other animals are slaughtered and sold in traditional ‘wet markets’, which tourists flock to see the ‘real’ side of the country. 

Viruses – including ones carried by animals – are constantly changing and may over time become strong enough to infect humans.   

People who touch infected animal bodily fluids, such as saliva, are at risk of such viruses. However, it is not exactly clear how the new coronavirus started or is transmitted yet.

Sir Jeremy, director of the UK-based global health charity Wellcome, told MailOnline: ‘This is absolutely not a brand new virus.

‘This will have been circulating in animals in China and maybe other parts of Asia, probably for years… if not decades.’

He added that it probably hadn’t had an effect on humans until now, or caused such mild infections that ‘no-one was bothered about’ it. 

But Sir Jeremy said ‘something changed’, claiming the virus may have adapted to animals or mutated to become infectious to humans.

Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market has been shut since January 1 because the majority of patients have been connected to it.

Sir Jeremy said animal markets are a ‘real source of infection’.

He added: ‘It’s a seafood market but it also had animals being sold, from domestic chickens and ducks to all sorts of other animals.

‘The mixing of animals in an animal market has been a very common way that these infections have come about.

‘Sometimes these viruses can adapt to humans, replicate and cause human infections.’

Pointing at HIV and Ebola, Sir Jeremy said: ‘Many, many infections in humans that we know of today actually originated in animals.’ 

SARS, the deadly virus which started in southern China and killed more than 700 people in the early 2000s, came out of a similar market.   

And avian flu, another zootonic disease which can infect humans, can be spread from live birds sold at markets or poultry farms. 

Wet markets often sell live animals, many of which are illegal or exotic. The vast number of species allows a virus to adapt.

Mr Farrar said: ‘Animals mixing allows the virus to be in lots of different hosts, which allows it to adapt to those animals. 

‘The virus can them come across to humans [who buy and sell at the market].’ 

Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious diseases expert at the University of East Anglia, said the coronavirus ‘almost certainly’ came from animals. 

He said people in China are in closer contact with wild animals than those in Western societies because their diet is so varied.

‘With China particularly, there is a closer link to animals and what sort of animals people consume,’ Professor Hunter said.

‘When people go to the market to buy chicken for the week, it’s often alive when you buy it. People butcher the animal themselves at home or in the street.’ 

Infected animals may shed the virus in their saliva, mucous and faeces, which humans may come into contact with. 

They may inhale droplets of the virus from the air, or physically touch an infected animal. 

Scientists are still trying to work out how the new Chinese virus attacks its host and how deadly it is.  


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