Japanese health officials said a man who recently returned from China and was diagnosed with pneumonia also tested positive for a new coronavirus that’s sickened at least 41 others in the Wuhan area and resulted in one death.
The officials said the man developed a cough on Jan. 3 while still in Wuhan, and when he returned to Japan on Jan. 6 he was hospitalized and tested positive for the virus. The man has since been released, and his family members and those who treated him have not fallen ill, Japanese media reported, according to The Associated Press.
While the majority of patients developed the illness after visiting or working at the Seafood Wholesale Market, Japanese officials said the man did not, but had “close contact” with at least one person with pneumonia symptoms at a place where he stayed during his visit. The news comes one day after health officials said it’s possible that the virus may be transmissible between humans.
On Wednesday, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said that one of the 41 patients did not visit the market, but may have contracted the virus from her husband, who had worked there before he himself fell ill. Hong Kong health official Chuang Shuk-kwan said that it’s also possible that the man brought food home from the market that then infected his wife. Another case reported in Thailand is currently being investigated, according to The Associated Press.
Health officials, including those with the World Health Organization (WHO), maintain that risk of human-to-human transmission remains low. However, as thousands prepare to travel for the lunar new year, Japan’s health ministry advises those visiting or returning from Wuhan wear masks and promptly seek medical attention for any new symptoms. Indonesia has also started using thermal imaging equipment at airports to screen arriving travelers.
Local authorities have also been working to dispel rumors that the coronavirus is a reemergence of SARS, another coronavirus that in 2003 infected an estimated 8,000 people and killed at least 770 after it spread to cities throughout China and other countries.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.