Australian authorities have tightened security controls on flights from Wuhan, a city in central China, where viral pneumonia cases began when they are investigating possible contagion in Brisbane.
"As Australia has a large number of international travelers from Wuhan and (from other cities in) China, we are implementing preventive measures," said Australian Government chief medical services, Brendan Murphy, at a press conference.
Border and biosafety officials will conduct medical inspections for passengers arriving in Australia on three weekly flights from Wuhan to Sydney, as well as providing visitors with pamphlets with information on the symptoms of this disease.
"We cannot completely prevent the disease from entering the country," warned Murphy, hours before a case of possible contagion was registered for an Australian citizen who returned from Wuhan a few days ago.
Queensland State Health Ministry officials told Spanish news agency EFE that they quarantined a man who had symptoms of this respiratory disease.
"As this man traveled to Wuhan, he underwent a series of coronavirus tests and will remain isolated until his symptoms improve," said a ministry spokesman.
Four people died and more than 200 were infected – international experts point out more than a thousand cases of infection – since the virus was first detected last month in Wuhan, a city in central China, which is also an important center for domestic and international transport.
This week new cases were diagnosed in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong. All of these patients visited Wuhan recently.
Outside China, four cases of the new coronavirus have been confirmed among Chinese travelers in South Korea, Japan and Thailand, all also from Wuhan
The new coronavirus is similar to the one that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, better known as atypical pneumonia, which infected the first patients in southern China in 2002 and spread to more than 20 countries, killing almost 800 people, and the Respiratory Syndrome Middle East, which was first identified in 2012 in Saudi Arabia, extending to 27 countries and which caused more than 850 deaths.
According to a specialist in respiratory diseases at the National Health Commission of China Zhong Nanshan, the coronavirus is transmitted by human infection.
WHO calls meeting
The World Health Organization (WHO) convened an expert meeting on Wednesday to assess whether coronavirus cases in China constitute an international public health emergency, the institution announced in a statement.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on the organization's Emergency Committee to assess this possibility and the recommendations to follow if the international public health emergency, applicable to the most serious epidemics, is declared.
The meeting was scheduled after a significant increase in cases of respiratory infection with a new type of coronavirus was known. The WHO admitted that an animal is "the most likely primary source" of contagion, with "limited human-to-human transmission through close contact".
The international public health emergency was declared for the 2009 swine flu epidemics, the Zika virus in 2016, and the Ebola virus, which hit part of West Africa from 2014 to 2016, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, since 2018.
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