Continue search for source of new virus: WHO tells China as Thailand case emerges

United Nations, Jan 15 (PTI): The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said it is “essential” for China to continue its search for the source of a previously unknown strain of coronavirus, following confirmation that an infected patient is being treated in Thailand.
Coronaviruses are described by the WHO as “a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases”.
Probably the best known is Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, commonly known as SARS, which broke out in Asia in 2003, and spread to countries in North America, South America and Europe, before being successfully contained later that year.
In a statement released on Monday, the WHO identified the patient, who was hospitalised in Thailand on January 8, as a traveller from the Chinese city of Wuhan. According to Thai authorities, the patient is recovering from the illness.
“WHO reiterates that it is essential that investigations continue in China to identify the source of this outbreak and any animal reservoirs or intermediate hosts,” it said.
The new virus is believed to have originated in Wuhan, infecting dozens of people in China. On Saturday, Chinese media reported the first known death from the viral infection.
Coronaviruses rely on animal to human transmission. There are several known coronaviruses currently circulating in animals, that have not yet infected humans.
The health commission in Wuhan has reportedly declared that there is no evidence of any spread between humans.
However, with the emergence of the Thailand case, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is planning to consult the issue with the members of the agency’s Emergency Committee. He could also call for a meeting of the Committee at short notice, the statement said.
The WHO noted that it has been expecting cases to be reported in countries other than China, underscoring the importance of monitoring and preparedness in other nations.
The work of the WHO and the Chinese authorities in containing the new coronavirus will be made more complicated by the Spring Festival, also known as the Chinese New Year, which begins on January 25, and sees hundreds of millions criss-crossing the country.
The WHO has issued guidance on how to detect and treat persons infected with the new strain of the virus.
The standard recommendations for halting the spread of coronaviruses include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs and avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness, such as coughing and sneezing.
Common signs of coronavirus infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.