Philippine health authorities are investigating the case of a five-year old Chinese boy with a travel history to Wuhan, the central city where a SARS-like coronavirus was first discovered, after he showed flu-like symptoms before arriving in the country.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque said the boy tested positive for coronavirus, but it could not be ascertained what strain until the government gets back samples it sent to Australia.
He was confined to a hospital several hours after arriving in Cebu City in the central Philippines on 12 January with his mother, after he manifested a fever, throat irritation and cough, Mr Duque told a media briefing.
The Philippines health ministry also said it was monitoring three other Chinese nationals who arrived from China with flu-like symptoms but without any history of travel to Wuhan.
And the virus may have also spread to Australia.
Earlier Tuesday, a Brisbane man was tested for the deadly new strain of coronavirus after returning from a trip to China to visit his family.
Queensland’s chief health officer Jeanette Young told reporters the man had been isolated at his home.
“We’ve got one gentleman that we’re following at the moment who has travelled to Wuhan and has developed a respiratory illness,” Dr Young told reporters on Tuesday.
“We’ve done some tests on him and are awaiting test results.”
Wuhan, the sprawling capital of central China’s Hubei province, is the epicentre of the coronavirus that has now killed at least six people and infected about 220 in Asia after the outbreak was first detected in December.
The government announced on Tuesday afternoon it would raise its travel advice for Wuhan to level two which suggests people “exercise a high degree of caution”.
But Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged for calm.
“I would caution people to remain very calm about this. At this stage, it is not something that is at the level of danger of something like SARS,” Mr Morrison told Sky News.
“The necessary precautions are being taken at airports … There’s an incident response group that has already been stood up here nationally.”
Mr Morrison said he was receiving updates to ensure “we’re all over this”.
Earlier, chief medical officer Brendan Murphy told reporters the risk posed to Australians by the new strain was low.
Biosecurity staff have been stationed at Sydney airport to meet the three direct flights a week from Wuhan to Sydney.
Written information will be provided to passengers onboard flights from Wuhan, explaining the symptoms of coronavirus which includes a high fever.
But Professor Murphy said it was not necessary to screen people for temperature which he said he proved unreliable in the past.
“They missed a large number of cases,” he said.
Dr Young said it may take several days to confirm whether or not the man is suffering from the new strain of coronavirus as they need more information from China.
“At the moment, we can only do a generic test for coronavirus. We can’t do the specific test for this specific virus, because we haven’t seen it before. So, then we’ve got to develop the specific tests to be able to say it’s this particular virus.”
Dr Young said GPs who have patients with respiratory symptoms such as a cough, fever or sore throat, should send specimens to Brisbane for testing.
“Essentially there are a lot of Chinese who do travel between Australia and China, particularly as we’re moving into the Chinese New Year Festival period.
“So, the advice is that anyone who travels to Wuhan and then comes back and is unwell, to go and see their GP or an emergency department, and to isolate themselves from other people.”
At Sydney International airport, many travellers flying to the city of Tianjin in China on Tuesday, were not too concerned about the outbreak.
Shuo told SBS News she was travelling to visit her family in the southern city of Guangzhou.
“Actually my father works in hospital and he told me it’s not that serious.”
Fellow flyer Daniel, who is visiting family in China to celebrate Lunar New Year, had confidence authorities would handle it.
“Not actually, because we have experience controlling the SARS, so I’m pretty confident in controlling this time,” he said.
“[I am] a bit concerned, but I think with the proper measures – I think that can be controlled, probably.”
Additional reporting: AAP