The pattern that one in four patients were in serious condition in Wuhan was similar to that of the severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, outbreak in 2003, David Hui Shu-cheong, Chairman, Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, Faculty of Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, said in a radio program on Friday.
A odd pneumonia-like infection that first popped up in the Chinese city of Wuhan just days ago is beginning to spread, with the total number of infected individuals climbing from 27 to at least 44.
All of the patients had been isolated and their close contacts are under medical observation, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said.
In response, nearby jurisdictions have increased their border screening, and three travelers from Wuhan have been admitted to the hospital in Hong Kong.
Most of the cases have been traced to the South China Seafood City food market in the suburbs of sprawling Wuhan, where offerings are reported to include wild animals that carry viruses risky to humans. Chinese officials said on Friday that 11 patients remained in critical condition with respiratory tract infection symptoms, including fever and breathing difficulty.
Initial laboratory tests found no "apparent human-to-human transmission" and so far no medical staff had been infected, the statement said.
The highly contagious virus, a form of pneumonia, killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in the early 2000s. Most of the patients worked in a seafood wholesale market, the commission said in a separate statement.
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The commission said the market has been disinfected and investigations into links to the outbreak were underway.
On Tuesday, unverified information that circulated widely on the Chinese internet claimed the cause of the illnesses was SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, a viral respiratory disease that infected thousands of people in southern China and Hong Kong in 2002 and 2003.
According to local media cited by the SCMP report, the Huanan Seafood Market sold other animals, such as birds, pheasants, and snakes, along with organs of rabbits and other wildlife, triggering worries about the potential jump of an unknown virus to humans at the market.
World Health Organization criticised China for under reporting the number of SARS cases following the 2003 outbreak, which originated in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong. Wuhan police said it has detained eight people for spreading false news online about the case.
Officials in Singapore said they would begin screening passengers arriving on flights from Wuhan for fever.
Taiwan's Centers for Disease Control (CDC) organized a press conference on the afternoon of December 31.
Malaysia's Health Ministry also unveiled measures to examine fever-like symptoms at all worldwide borders.