Many people have seen the news about a mysterious outbreak of viral pneumonia, with patients experiencing difficulty breathing and other pneumonia-like symptoms, in the city of Wuhan, the capital of China’s central province of Hubei. As of January 3, 2020, 44 cases had been reported, with 11 of these in such critical condition that many throughout the world linked the outbreak to the SARS epidemic (SARS – Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) that killed hundreds of patients over 10 years ago.
Finally, on January 5, 2020, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission announced that they had excluded the possibility of SARS, bird flu, influenza, adenovirus or MERS, as many people had originally speculated. Additionally, there has been no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), official sources have stated that some of the patients operated stalls or were employed at the Huanan seafood market.
Patients have been found to exhibit symptoms of fever followed by difficulty breathing, chest radiographs showing invasive lesions in both lungs, common symptoms of respiratory diseases and pneumonia frequently contracted during the winter season. The WHO’s recommendations on public health measures and surveillance of influenza and severe acute respiratory infections remain in effect. In the event of any symptoms becoming present, patients experiencing respiratory diseases, either during or after traveling to Wuhan city, China, should see a doctor for a thorough health checkup.
In Hong Kong, 15 patients who had recently traveled to Wuhan are receiving treatment and authorities there are working to contain the spread of the disease. Warnings have also been issued against visiting wet markets and eating wild game in mainland China. Singapore has also issued inspection measures, with temperature screening at Changi Airport for all travelers arriving from Wuhan. So far, preliminary results show some patients with influenza, the RSV virus and others still waiting for confirmation.
While the mystery pneumonia cases are still being investigated, and we continue to wait for answers and definite conclusions, we should not be complacent. If you or anyone in your family experience abnormal symptoms, and have recently traveled to a location experiencing the epidemic, be observant and take note of the following signs or symptoms:
Therefore, if anyone close to you or in your family has just returned from China, Wuhan city in particular, and begins to show symptoms of a fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, they should see a doctor as early as possible to receive proper treatment in a timely manner.
While statements released by health officials regarding this most recent outbreak of acute pneumonia or mystery pneumonia have ruled out SARS, it’s wise to remain alert and observant. Be sure to wear a face mask every time you are out in a crowded place, and take note of any abnormal symptoms you may feel. If you experience fever, coughing, and shortness of breath, you should see a doctor immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment.
M.D., Faculty of Medicine, Mahidol University, 1997. Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi Hospital, Mahidol University , 1997