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Mysterious viral flu – World on Alert

Mystery lingers around the unknown viral pneumonia that has caused outbreak in Wuhan, China recently. As of Monday,A total of 59 cases have been reported with seven patients in critical condition, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said in a statement. All patients are being treated in quarantine, and no deaths have been reported. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), symptoms of the pneumonia are mainly fever, with a number of patients having difficulty breathing, and chest radiographs showing invasive lesions of both lungs. China has responded to the incident and is taking extensive measures to manage the outbreak.

Crowds awaiting screening at the airport, Wuhan, China

This latest outbreak has revoked fears for those who dealt with a SARS epidemic 18 years ago. In the 2002-03 epidemic, the virus affected more than 8,000 people in 26 countries, killing 349 people in mainland China and 299 in Hong Kong.

What’s concerning is that Wuhan authorities said on Sunday they had excluded the possibility of SARS, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), and bird flu and other common respiratory diseases, including influenza and adenovirus.

A potential new viral pneumonia?

Ralph Baric, a coronavirus expert at the University of North Carolina, agreed that China has deep expertise in virology. “Wuhan is the epicenter for a lot of virology research in China with world-class facilities to do anything that you would want to do on new emerging infectious diseases. So it’s occurring in the right spot,” he said. But even with the new technology, finding the cause may be complicated by the fact that pneumonia is common and can be caused by many pathogens. Because of SARS, attention is focusing on coronaviruses, though there are a number of different virus families that could cause respiratory outbreaks

Professor David Hui Shu-cheong, a respiratory expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said it is highly likely that the outbreak was caused by a "brand-new viral pneumonia.” According to Hui, many new pathogens have been known to be transmitted from animals to humans.The coronavirus that causes SARS was traced back to the civet cat and dromedary camels are considered a likely source of MERS. Though there has been no obvious evidence of human-to-human transmission so far, but the outbreak has sparked nationwide fear. Social media platforms — both in China and outside it — have been abuzz with discussion of the Wuhan outbreak.

Workers at village in Wuhan, China

Asia is on alert

Though the World Health Organization has not recommended any specific measures for travellers, the neighbouring countries have stepped up in preventing any possible spread of the infections. Hong Kong, Taiwan, Philippines, and South Korea will be screening all travellers arriving from Wuhan and any patients with symptoms of respiratory diseases should be reported to authorities.

On Saturday, the Malaysian Health Ministry has urged the states to inform if they encountered any case with pneumonia symptoms, and if any patients had visited Wuhan recently.

It might not be the perfect time of the year to be having an outbreak - just before the start of the Lunar New Year travel season, as millions will be travelling to and from China for family reunion.

Red flag(s)

Develop any of these symptoms

  1. High fever

  2. Headache

  3. Breathlessness

  4. Sore throat

  5. Vomiting or diarrhoea

  6. Travel to or from Wuhan city within the last 14 days

  7. In close contact with anyone linked to the Wuhan city

adapted from NST

Should anyone are suspected or develop these symptoms, please seek treatment at the nearest healthcare facility. For jet setters or frequent air travellers, please do consider to speak to your healthcare professionals about travel medicine including flu vaccine.

To learn more about how you could take precaution against influenza or viral pneumonia, please schedule an appointment to talk to our medical professionals from Osel Clinic

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