Dog quarantined for virus in HK

    153
    Photo by Greg Baker / AFP

    HONG KONG. — Hong Kong has quarantined the dog of a coronavirus patient in what could be the first case of human-to-animal transmission, although experts cautioned against pets being potential spreaders of the virus.

    The dog has tested “weak positive” for the virus, which indicates a low level of infection, the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said on Wednesday.

    “The department will continue to closely monitor the dog … and repeat the test later. It will only be returned to its owner when the test result is negative,” the AFCD said in a statement.

    It said there is no evidence pets can be a source of infection.

    The World Health Organization website says there is no evidence so far that companion pets can be infected with the coronavirus.

    Other disease experts say it is possible, but as animals generally don’t tend to have symptoms, pets are unlikely to spread the virus further.

    “Some animals have the same receptor for Covid-19 so they can have the disease but…in general, animals are not symptomatic,” said Dale Fisher, a Singapore-based infectious diseases expert, who chairs the Global Outbreak Alert & Response Network coordinated by the WHO.

    “It’s possible but it’s certainly not proven and I’m sure it’s not going to drive the outbreak.”

    Animal health experts examining the Hong Kong case said pet owners should not be overly concerned and should not abandon their pets.

    Hong Kong has more than 100 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and two people have died.

    There are more than 95,300 cases worldwide, the majority in China, and more than 3,200 people have died, a Reuters tally shows.

    ***
    BEIJING. – Mainland China reported a rise in new confirmed cases of coronavirus on Thursday, reversing three straight days of declines, because of a spike in new infections in Wuhan, the city at the centre of the outbreak.

    Mainland China had 139 new confirmed cases as of Wednesday, the National Health Commission (NHC) said, bringing the total accumulated number of cases to 80,409.

    Authorities reported 119 new cases the previous day and 125 the day before that.

    The increase was driven by more cases in Wuhan, the provincial capital of Hubei, where the virus is believed to have emerged in a market late last year.

    Wuhan’s new infections climbed to 131 from 114 a day earlier. There was no immediate elaboration and health officials were due to hold a briefing later in the day.

    After what some critics said was an initially hesitant response to the new virus, China imposed sweeping restrictions to try to stop it, including transport suspensions, lockdowns of cities and extending a Lunar New Year holiday across the country.

    World Health Organization (WHO) officials have said other countries have much to learn from the way China has handled the outbreak and Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu said many countries had asked for help and China was responding.

    The number of new confirmed cases in Hubei, excluding Wuhan, has remained in single digits for seven consecutive days, with three new infections recorded on Wednesday.

    In the rest of mainland China, outside Hubei, there were only five new confirmed cases, the health commission said.

    The death toll from the outbreak in mainland China had reached 3,012 as of the end of Wednesday, up by 31 from the previous day. Hubei accounted for all of the new deaths. In Wuhan, 23 people died.

    With the downward trend in new cases, Chinese authorities have turned their attention to stopping the virus being brought in from new coronavirus hot spots abroad.

    ‘REPAY KINDNESS’

    The number of new infections overseas now exceeds the tally of new cases in China, with Italy, South Korea and Iran, in particular, seeing worrying spreads of the virus.

    Authorities have asked overseas Chinese hoping to return home to reconsider their travel plans, while cities across the country have set up quarantine rules for those entering from high-risk places.

    An infected person is known to have arrived in China from Iran, one of the virus’ new hot spots, last week.

    The cities of Shanghai and Guangdong have ordered people who have been in countries with severe outbreaks within the previous two weeks to stay in quarantine for 14 days.

    The city of Chengdu in central Sichuan province said it was also ordering quarantine for such people.

    The NHC has said authorities were transitioning from “overall containment to targeted containment” measures, with a focus on containment within communities, and medical treatment.

    Ma told a briefing China would make donations to South Korea, Iraq, Cambodia and Sri Lanka, on top of what it has already given to Pakistan, Japan and Iran.

    China was also considering responding to WHO call for donations, he said.

    “Many of the countries which have requested for our help had actually helped us previously, so when we help these countries, it is to help them fight the virus, and also to repay their kindness,” Ma said.

    NEW ‘SPECIAL CARE ZONE’

    SEOUL. – South Korea declared a “special care zone” on Thursday around a second city hit hard by the coronavirus and the US military confirmed two new cases among relatives of its troops in the country, as it battles the biggest epidemic outside China.

    Australia became the latest country to impose travel restrictions on South Koreans, with almost 100 nations now limiting arrivals from the East Asian country which reported 438 new coronavirus cases on Thursday for a total of 5,766.

    The South Korean government declared a “special care zone” around Gyeongsan, a city of about 275,000 people 250 kms (150 miles) southeast of Seoul, promising extra resources such as face masks and warning against travel there.

    Gyeongsan has seen a spike in new cases in recent days, many of them linked to a fringe Christian group at the centre of the South Korean outbreak. Similar zones have been declared around neighboring Daegu city and Cheongdo County.

    About 75% of all cases in South Korea are in and around Daegu, the country’s fourth-largest city, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

    “Every day is sad and tough like a war. But our Daegu citizens are showing surprise wisdom and courage,” Daegu Mayor Kwon Young-jin told reporters on Thursday.

    About 2,120 patients were waiting for hospital beds in Daegu, city officials said. Dozens of newly commissioned military nurses were due to begin work in the city on Thursday, the health ministry said.

    The KCDC reported five more deaths from the virus, bringing the total in the country to 37.

    The flu-like virus that emerged from China late last year has infected more than 95,300 people and killed almost 3,300 around the world, mostly in China, according to a Reuters tally.

    KCDC Deputy Director Kwon Jun-wook advised all South Koreans to stay home and avoid “any gatherings, especially those that take place in enclosed places with many people such as religious events”.

    He also advised employers in Asia’s fourth-largest economy, home to tech giants like Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, to work from home.

    ‘DEEPLY REGRETTABLE’

    US Forces Korea (USFK) reported two new cases, for a total of six cases in soldiers, employees or people related to the roughly 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea.

    Despite the new cases, USFK had resumed sending troops to bases in Daegu and surrounding areas, according to military newspaper Stars and Stripes.

    Commanders believed the bases were protected from the outside population, and that the troop rotations were needed to maintain readiness in the face of continued threats from nuclear-armed North Korea, the newspaper reported.

    Australia’s move to ban the arrival of foreigners from South Korea is a blow to Seoul’s efforts to prevent the United States from imposing such restrictions.

    “It is a deeply regrettable step, and we will closely consult Australian authorities for a swift revocation of the measure and to minimise inconvenience for our citizens,” South Korean foreign ministry spokesman Kim In-chul told reporters.

    South Korean officials met the US ambassador in Seoul on Wednesday to urge the United States not to limit travel. Similar talks would be held on Friday with diplomats from other nations, the foreign ministry said.

    According to the US State Department, anyone with a fever of 100.4 F (38 C) is already banned from boarding direct flights from South Korea to the United States.

    Korean Air Lines said on Thursday it would screen all passengers departing Incheon airport for high temperatures and reject those deemed a risk.

    South Korea sent three “rapid response” teams to Vietnam on Thursday to assist more than 270 citizens quarantined in that country over coronavirus concerns, the foreign ministry said.