Health officials are trying to track down hundreds of passengers who shared flight with a man diagnosed with the deadly coronavirus.
The man arrived in Sydney from Wuhan, the Chinese city that is the epicentre of the escalating outbreak, on January 20.
He is the fourth person in Australia and the third in NSW to come down with the virus that has killed 41 people and infected more than 1,300.
The federal government has stepped up measures to protect Australians from the the deadly coronavirus virus after the first case in Australia was confirmed (stock image)
The 53-year-old arrived in Sydney on China Eastern Flight MU749, landing at 11.35am, and developed symptoms that night before seeing a doctor.
NSW Health is trying to find his fellow passengers to see if they could have been infected by coming into contact with him.
‘We have asked the National Incident Room to pull the records for those people that were on the flight and we are getting the seat details,’ NSW chief medical officer Kerry Chant said.
Three men in NSW, aged 43, 53 and 35, and one aged in his 50s in Victoria have caught the deadly disease.
None of the men is in a serious condition. They are in hospital simply to stop the virus spreading.
The deadly virus has already claimed 41 lives in China and is expected to rise worldwide
Two flew from Wuhan while the other arrived in Sydney from Shenzhen in southern China, just north of Hong Kong.
None of the men had symptoms on the flight so the likelihood that they infected fellow passengers is low.
‘We do not believe that they were infectious at the time of their international flight,’ Dr Chant said.
CORONAVIRUS IN AUSTRALIA
* Australia’s first confirmed case of coronavirus is a Chinese national in his 50s who tested positive in Melbourne on Saturday morning, after arriving on a flight from Guangzhou on January 19.
* Three more cases were confirmed on Saturday in NSW, with two people in isolation at Sydney’s Westmead Hospital
* Two more people in NSW and one in Queensland are awaiting test results while authorities have already cleared 12 people in NSW and nine in Queensland.
* China says the death toll has risen to 41, while more than 1000 people are now believed to have contracted the virus across 11 countries.
* Symptoms of the respiratory illness include fever, cough, sore throat, vomiting and difficulty breathing.
* Australia has raised the travel alert level to ‘do not travel’ for the city of Wuhan – the epicentre of the outbreak – and for the entire Hubei province.
* Passengers arriving on all flights from China are being stopped and provided with health information including what to do if they become unwell.
* Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy says unless people have contact with someone who is unwell and has come from that part of China, there is no need for current concern.
However, they may have come into contact with hundreds of people since getting off their planes and despite interviewing many people who met them, there would be many others at risk.
Officials urged anyone with symptoms who has been to China recently to come forward.
Dr Chant also asked GPs to contact NSW Health if they had a patient showing symptoms of coronavirus.
‘Make sure you have processes in place and consider where people have travelled and particularly be conscious of people returning from China,’ she said.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said anyone who comes forward with symptoms will have their privacy respected.
‘They should also call ahead to speak to their GP or emergency department,’ he said.
‘If the GP considers novel coronavirus testing is needed they will be referred to the emergency department for testing.’
The patient in Victoria is a Chinese national aged in his 50s who flew to Melbourne on China Southern flight CZ321 from Wuhan via Guangzhou on January 19 on an A380 plane, which can can carry 500 passengers.
He became the first confirmed case of coronavirus in Australia on Saturday morning and is now in quarantined isolation at Monash Hospital in Clayton in Melbourne’s east.
The Sydney patients are being treated at Westmead Hospital, NSW Health confirmed on Saturday night.
Earlier on Saturday a baby was rushed from Sydney Airport to hospital for testing and was later discharged cleared of the virus.
Five people tested in Queensland since have been cleared.
The dangerous coronavirus has spread to 11 countries as the number of cases grows
Fourteen cities across the Hubei province in China are restricting the movement of people – by reducing or cancelling public transport and closing roads – to try and stop the virus spreading
Another four people in South Australia are undergoing tests as a precaution but the likelihood of having the virus is low, according to authorities.
Officials expect more people will be struck down with the dangerous virus in coming weeks as it threatens to become a global pandemic.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the federal government has stepped up measures to protect Australians from the virus, along with a dire warning to not travel to China’s Wuhan or Hubei provinces.
‘From today (Saturday), anyone arriving in Australia on flights from other parts of China will be met and provided instruction on what to do it they have symptoms it start to develop them,’ he said.
‘Chinese authorities have also imposed travel restriction sin at least five cities in the Hubei province.
‘Australians travelling to these areas may not be able to leave until restrictions are lifted.
Mr Morrison added the federal government will continue to monitor the situation and take action when necessary.
In Melbourne, many CBD pharmacies are running out of protective face masks, which were already in huge demand due to the toxic haze from the state’s bushfires that have blanketed the city in t recent weeks.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF THE CORONAVIRUS?
Once someone has caught the virus it may take between two and 14 days for them to show any symptoms.
If and when they do, typical signs include:
- a runny nose
- a cough
- sore throat
- fever (high temperature)
The vast majority of patients – at least 97 per cent, based on available data – will recover from these without any issues or medical help.
In a small group of patients, who seem mainly to be the elderly or those with long-term illnesses, it can lead to pneumonia.
Pneumonia is an infection in which the insides of the lungs swell up and fill with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if left untreated, can be fatal and suffocate people.
‘I have been to nine pharmacies already, they’re all out of them,’ a Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology student originally from Shanghai told Reuters.
‘And I need them, we all need them.’
However, health officials say the masks are not recommended.
‘Face masks are not recommended for use by members of the public in Victoria for the prevention of infections like novel coronavirus,’ the Victoria health department said in a statement.
Victoria Health Minister Jenny Mikakos told reporters on Saturday that the infected patient had been in Wuhan – the epicentre of the outbreak – for two weeks by himself.
‘He was confirmed as positive after a series of tests early this morning,’ Ms Mikakos said on Saturday.
Ms Mikakos said it was ‘possible’ the man wasn’t contagious while on board as he didn’t start showing symptoms until after arriving in Melbourne.
‘We are now in the process of making contact with all the other passengers [on the flight],’ she said.
‘It is important to stress that there is no cause for alarm to the community.
In Queensland six people – including three from the Gold Coast – were being assessed for the virus, five of whom have now been given the all-clear.
Four others in Queensland were given an all-clear earlier in the week.
Three confirmed victims in NSW are now being treated in isolation in NSW hospitals
A passenger wearing a protective mask (pictured) is seen at Sydney Airport on Thursday, as a man in Melbourne is confirmed as the first Australian case of coronavirus
Did China pressure World Health Organisation not to declare international emergency?
China’s status as a major superpower may have influenced the World Health Organisation’s decision not to declare coronavirus an international emergency, experts have warned.
More than 1,300 people have been infected globally with the virus traced to a seafood market in the central city of Wuhan that was illegally selling wildlife.
Despite this, the WHO has failed to declare a global health crisis. On Thursday the organisation said it was ‘too early’ for such a decision but added an emergency could still be declared if the outbreak continues to spread.
‘This should not be taken as a sign that we don’t think the outbreak is serious, or that we are not taking it seriously,’ said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
‘Nothing could be further from the truth.’
Now, baffled experts have warned that their decision may have been influenced by China.
Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, told The Daily Telegraph: ‘The criteria for declaring a public health emergency of international concern have been met.’
But ‘not all WHO decisions are made based on the developments in the biological world,’ he added.
A total of 18 people have been tested for the virus in NSW, with 12 of those given the all-clear.
In Tasmania, a man in his 30s who travelled to Wuhan this month is being tested for the virus in Royal Hobart Hospital.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade overnight raised the level of travel advice for Wuhan and Hubei province to ‘do not travel’.
The disease is listed as having ‘pandemic potential’, allowing border measures to be enhanced.
‘The confirmation today by Victorian authorities of the coronavirus case was a matter that had been anticipated,’ Mr Morrison said.
‘The Australian government is of course taking this issue incredibly seriously.’
About a dozen cases are being investigated nationwide, according to Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young.
‘It’s an evolving number,’ she told reporters on Saturday.
‘We will be treating them as if they’re confirmed cases, as a precaution. We still don’t understand the transmissibility of this virus.
‘If you develop fever, coughs or shortness of breath, you should ring ahead to your GP, discuss it and your GP will refer you to the emergency department.’
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said it was important for people arriving from Wuhan – and those in close contact with them – to monitor for symptoms including fever, cough, sore throat, vomiting and difficulty breathing.
A pamphlet handed out by the Australian Government providing travellers with information on the deadly coronavirus (pictured)
Patients with the novel coronavirus (pictured) typically have a fever, cough and trouble breathing, but some patients have developed pneumonia
‘We don’t know exactly how long symptoms take to show after a person has been infected but there is an incubation period and some patients will have very mild symptoms,’ Prof Murphy said.
China has confirmed 41 deaths from the virus, while more than 1,000 people are now estimated to have been affected worldwide. Cases have been confirmed in 10 countries.
‘We’re confident that outside the major epicentre of China there is not yet evidence of significant, or any, human to human spread,’ Prof Murphy said.
Federal and state chief medical officers held joint discussions on Saturday with health ministers expected to do the same.
Prime Minister Morrison said the confirmation of a case in Australia had been anticipated and procedures are in place to manage the situation.
‘I’d urge Australians to go about their day, go about their business in the knowledge that the professionals and the experts are there to provide the support that is needed in times like this are on the job and they’re getting about it to keep you and your families safe,’ he said.
Wuhan is a city of 11 million people which has been the epicentre of the outbreak. It is now treating dozens of patients (pictured)
The infected man in Melbourne has pneumonia and is in a stable condition, being treated in a negative pressure isolation room.
Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Angie Bone said the man felt tired after landing in Melbourne, before he started feeling ill later that day.
He then presented himself to a doctor on Thursday, four days after arriving in Australia.
‘My understanding is he came off the plane and felt very tired and spent the next day resting in his room, towards the end of the day he developed symptoms,’ Dr Bone said.
There is said to be little risk of him spreading the deadly virus in Melbourne, as he spent the last week with family and hasn’t visited any public places since being in Australia.
‘He stayed in his room as he was conscious he may have caught the disease, so his family didn’t allow anyone in his room,’ Dr Bone said.
‘He has not been out and about, so I guess that minimises the risk to the broader community and he has taken all the appropriate precautions in terms of calling ahead to the GP clinic and to the hospital before he has presented on both of those occasions.
‘So, he has done everything right. The family has done everything right to minimise the risk.
‘There is a possibility the family may have caught the infection, we will be observing them very closely. It will help us understand how easy it is to transmit this virus.’
Medical staff work in the intensive care unit at a hospital in Wuhan (pictured) have been working round the clock
Dr Bone said the man wasn’t a health care worker and may well have picked up the disease in a public setting.
‘There’s no evidence of human to human transmission here [in Australia]. It will be very hard to be specific about where people catch it from,’ she said.
Two cases, including a Chicago woman returning from China, have been confirmed in the United States.
The virus-hit Chinese city of Wuhan, already on lockdown and where the virus is thought to have originated, banned most vehicle use downtown and Hong Kong said it would close schools for two weeks as authorities scramble to stop the spread of an illness that has infected more than 1,400 people worldwide and killed 42.
France has confirmed two coronavirus cases, the first in Europe. Despite prevention measures such as sanitation being done in South Korea (pictured), the virus continues to spread globally
Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke following an emergency government meeting to warn that the spread of the killer virus is worsening, as video emerged showing medics collapsing at hospitals in the capital of central China’s Hubei province as the coronavirus outbreak continues to move across the world.
As of 8 pm local time (1200 GMT) on Saturday, the death toll in China had risen to 42, authorities reported. Some 1,372 people in China had been infected with the virus – traced to a seafood market in Wuhan that was illegally selling wildlife.
The virus has also been detected in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Nepal, and the United States.
‘Faced with the grave situation of an accelerating spread of the new coronavirus […] it is necessary to strengthen the centralised and unified leadership of the Party Central Committee,’ Xi said, according to official news agency Xinhua.
It comes as Liang Wudong, 62, who had been treating patients in Wuhan, died from the virus this morning, state-run China Global Television Network reported.
Wudong, who was retired but drafted in to help with the outbreak, died after time spent treating patients. It was also reported that another doctor, Jiang Jijun, has died from a heart attack while treating the afflicted.
It is unknown if the infectious disease specialist, who has treated bird flu and influenza A and tuberculosis over the years, died as a result of coronavirus or from exhaustion.
And the US, which has around 1,000 citizens in the city, is set to evacuate those it knows about – including diplomats – on a 230 seater charter flight tomorrow.
The US government won approval for the operation from China’s Foreign Ministry and other government agencies following negotiations in recent days, The Wall Street Journal reports. The British Foreign Ministry is yet to confirm whether it will do the same.
Also today, distressing video has emerged showing a doctor collapsing on the floor as footage revealed the full scale of panic inside Wuhan hospitals, with crowded corridors and patients slumped on the floor.
Video shows staff shouting at patients to calm themselves as medics desperately try to contain the situation. Some workers are reported to be wearing diapers as they don’t have time to use the toilet amid the panic.
Some 56 million people are now subject to restrictions on their movement as authorities expand travel bans in central Hubei province, now affecting 18 cities.
CORONAVIRUS: WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR
What is this virus?
The virus has been identified as a new type of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of pathogens, most of which cause mild respiratory infections such as the common cold.
But coronaviruses can also be deadly. SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, is caused by a coronavirus and killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in the early 2000s.
Can it kill?
Yes. 42 people have so far died after testing positive for the virus.
What are the symptoms?
Its symptoms are typically a fever, cough and trouble breathing, but some patients have developed pneumonia, a potentially life-threatening infection that causes inflammation of the small air sacs in the lungs. People carrying the novel coronavirus may only have mild symptoms, such as a sore throat. They may assume they have a common cold and not seek medical attention, experts fear.
How is it detected?
The virus’s genetic sequencing was released by scientists in China to the rest of the world to enable other countries to quickly diagnose potential new cases. This helps other countries respond quickly to disease outbreaks.
To contain the virus, airports are detecting infected people with temperature checks. But as with every virus, it has an incubation period, meaning detection is not always possible because symptoms have not appeared yet.
How did it start and spread?
The first cases identified were among people connected to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan.
Cases have since been identified elsewhere which could have been spread through human-to-human transmission.
What are countries doing to prevent the spread?
Countries in Asia have stepped up airport surveillance. They include Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines.
Australia and the US are also screening patients for a high temperature, and the UK announced it will screen passengers returning from Wuhan.
Is it similar to anything we’ve ever seen before?
Experts have compared it to the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The epidemic started in southern China and killed more than 700 people in mainland China, Hong Kong and elsewhere