Asian countries have stepped up precautionary measures to prevent an outbreak of a mysterious illness which has infected at least 44 people in China.
The disease, which is said to be a mysterious pneumonia outbreak, prompted authorities in Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia to take emergency measures on all flights arriving from the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the disease originated.
The World Health Organization said it was aware of the reports, is monitoring the situation and is in contact with the Chinese government about it.
“Investigations are still being carried out and authorities cannot yet confirm what pathogen is causing this illness,” said WHO spokesman, Tarik Jasarevic.
He added that there are several potential causes of viral pneumonia, many of which are more common than SARS.
Chinese municipal health officials in Wuhan said in a statement on their website on Friday that they had ruled out common respiratory diseases, such as influenza, bird flu and an adenovirus infection, as the cause.
Eleven of those infected were in critical condition and the rest stable, they officials said, adding that all those affected had been isolated and doctors were observing 121 people with whom they had been in close contact.
Clean-up efforts at a seafood market, where some of the victims were vendors, have been completed, the city officials said, adding that no obvious human-to-human transmission had been seen and no medical staff had been infected.
On Friday, Singapore’s health ministry said it would begin temperature screening on passengers arriving on flights from
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 regarding future outbreaks. The disease, which emerged in southern China late in 2002, spread rapidly to other cities and countries in 2003. More than 8,000 people were infected and 775 died.