Three Hongkongers who were taken ill after returning from the mainland Chinese city of Wuhan, where dozens have been hospitalised in an outbreak of viral pneumonia, had recovered considerably and were no longer showing fever symptoms, health authorities said on Thursday night.
Two of them had already been discharged from hospital and no serious pneumonia cases linked to the Wuhan outbreak had been reported in Hong Kong so far, authorities said.
None of the three had visited the seafood market in Wuhan which all 27 patients had been to before they developed respiratory tract infection symptoms in the mainland city, sparking fears about a return of severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars).
But Hong Kong health authorities were taking no chances and unveiled new prevention measures, including daily announcements on any suspected cases, as well as installing more infrared sensors at the city’s international airport to screen all travellers coming from Wuhan.
People who had visited wet markets in Wuhan in the past 14 days then travelled to Hong Kong will be quarantined in public hospitals if they develop symptoms of respiratory infections and fever, authorities said.
The World Health Organisation said it had activated an incident management team over the Wuhan cases to “ensure disease detection systems are sensitive, communication channels are open, and reporting is rapid across the region”. But there was no need to issue any travel alert for now, the WHO said.
Wuhan health authorities were not doing enough to keep people up to date, according to local media reports citing relatives of those affected by the mystery illness.
Authorities said on Tuesday that 27 people had been taken into hospital in December suffering from the virus, and that seven were seriously ill.
The circumstances of the outbreak showed similarities to the Sars and bird flu epidemics that killed hundreds of people in mainland China and Hong Kong between 2002 and 2004.
Most of the people infected in Wuhan worked at the Huanan seafood market in the city, which was later found to have also sold other animals, including birds and rabbits.
When contacted on Thursday, the Wuhan Health Commission declined to give an update on patient numbers or their condition, saying such information would be published on its website and WeChat social media account.
The Beijing News said on its website on Thursday that all 27 patients had been transferred to Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital, which specialises in treating infectious diseases.
The report quoted a female relative of one of them as saying that families were in the dark as neither the hospital nor its doctors would tell them what was going on.
“They only told the families the disease is under control and stabilising. It’s not getting better or worse,” she said.
Police in Wuhan said on Wednesday they had spoken to eight people about spreading rumours online over the pneumonia outbreak. They urged the public to abide by the law and not fabricate or spread unverified information.
The statement drew criticism from some social media users, however.
“How is this a rumour?” one wrote on the police’s Weibo account. “This outbreak happened. The public was spreading information because there was nothing from the officials for an entire day.”
Additional reporting by Zoe Low
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