CHP gives update on Wuhan cases

January 9, 2020

The Mainland's expert group has preliminarily determined that the pathogen of the cluster of viral pneumonia cases occurring in Wuhan is a kind of novel coronavirus.


Centre for Health Protection Controller Dr Wong Ka-hing gave the remarks at a press conference this evening on the latest progress of the identification of the pathogen for the reported cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan.


Dr Wong said that according to information from the National Health Commission, the relevant Mainland laboratory has detected a novel coronavirus and obtained the whole genome sequence of the virus.


The expert group revealed that molecular testing of 15 cases returned positive results for the novel coronavirus, and the virus was also isolated from a sample of a case. Under electron microscopy, the virus showed the typical appearance of coronavirus.


It added that the testing for nucleic acid, genome and antibodies from the samples of patients could be completed within a short period, thereby assisting in the confirmation of the pathogen.


Nonetheless, the virus isolation and pathogenicity studies would take several weeks.


Dr Wong said the Centre for Health Protection’s Public Health Laboratory Services Branch is conducting molecular testing for a number of coronaviruses.


“The Department of Health has contacted the National Health Commission after their notification today to ask if they can give us the genetic sequencing of the novel coronavirus so that we can have a more targeted and accurate testing of the novel virus for the suspected patients.


“The severity of this new disease is apparently not as severe as that of SARS. But of course, the information is still evolving.


“The existing prevention and control measures that we have implemented and also augmented have quite rightly been targeting this novel disease, but I would remind the public not to take this lightly.”


Additionally, the Scientific Committee on Emerging & Zoonotic Diseases and the Scientific Committee on Infection Control under the Centre for Health Protection convened a joint meeting today.


The committees noted that definite evidence of human-to-human transmission had not been identified in the Mainland so far and no healthcare professionals had been found infected.


However, the committees’ members considered that the available epidemiological information is not sufficient at this stage to reach a conclusion.


They concurred with the assessment of the World Health Organization that the reported link to a wholesale fish and live animal market in Wuhan could indicate an exposure link to animals.


They also agreed that public education should be strengthened in urging people not to consume game meat and not to patronise food premises where game meat is served.

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