The mysterious respiratory illness that has infected dozens of people in a central Chinese city is not Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), local authorities say.
- Dozens of patients were diagnosed with an unexplained viral pneumonia this month
- Initial investigations ruled out SARS, Middle East respiratory syndrome, influenza, bird flu and adenovirus
- The most common symptom is fever, with shortness of breath and lung infections also appearing in some cases
The 2002/03 SARS epidemic started in southern China and killed more than 700 people in mainland China, Hong Kong and elsewhere.
Fears of a SARS recurrence arose this month after a slate of patients were hospitalised with an unexplained viral pneumonia in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province.
As of Sunday, 59 people were diagnosed with the condition and had been isolated while they received treatment, according to the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission.
Seven were in critical condition, while the rest were stable.
The commission said in a statement that initial investigations also ruled out Middle East respiratory syndrome, influenza, bird flu and adenovirus.
The commission previously said the condition’s most common symptom was fever, with shortness of breath and lung infections appearing in a “small number” of cases.
There were no clear indications of human-to-human transmission.
Several patients were working at the South China Seafood City food market in sprawling Wuhan’s suburbs.
The commission said the market would be suspended and investigated.
Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority said a total of 15 patients in Hong Kong were being treated for symptoms including fever and respiratory infection after recent visits to Wuhan.
Hospitals and doctors have been directed to report cases of fever in anyone who has travelled to Wuhan in the past 14 days, Hong Kong’s health chief Sophia Chan said.
The hospital authority said it had activated a “serious response” level to curb spread of the infection.
Ms Chan warned Hong Kong residents against visiting wet markets and eating wild game in mainland China.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said it was closely monitoring the situation and maintaining contact with Chinese authorities.
The organisation said no travel or trade restrictions were necessary at this time.