Mysterious viral pneumonia outbreak in China

Authorities in China have begun an investigation into an outbreak of a mysterious viral pneumonia in the central city of Wuhan where dozens of people have been infected.

Chinese officials reported on Friday, Jan. 3, that a total of 44 cases have been confirmed thus far and 11 of them have been diagnosed as ‘severe.’

Because of the viral pneumonia outbreak, the cities of Hong Kong and Singapore, are bringing in screening processes for all travelers who are from Wuhan.

There are fears being expressed online that this virus may be linked to the severe acute respiratory syndrome known as Sars. This potentially deadly, flu-like virus which originated in China in 2002-2003 killed over 700 people worldwide at that time. The World Health Organization (WHO) at that time reported that 349 people in mainland China and 299 in Hong Kong died from the Sars virus.

The police in Wuhan arrested and punished eight people they found to have published or forwarded false information without verification on the internet saying the mysterious viral pneumonia is possibly linked to the Sars disease.

Investigation of the outbreak is being undertaken by the Wuhan Health Commission (WHC). The WHC posted a comment on its website saying it had already ruled out several infection sources, including avian influenza, influenza and other common respiratory diseases, but there was no mention that Sars had been ruled out.

The statement on the WHC website said that there has been no human-to-human transmission. But several of the people infected were found to work at a seafood market in Wuhan which prompted authorities to clean the area.

WHO says it has been made aware of the viral pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan and is keeping in close touch with the government health authorities in China. 

According to WHO when the Sars virus which is a coronavirus broke out in China, 8,098 people around the world became sick with it and 774 of them died. In the US only eight people came down with it and all of them had traveled to parts of the world where Sars was spreading, but it did not spread widely in the US.

WHO says there are many potential causes of viral pneumonia and many of them are common, even more so than Sars.

Fears of Sars  have sparked memories for those who had to deal with it 18 years ago.

China has been free of the Sars virus since May of 2004.