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Families of Wuhan pneumonia patients say they are being kept in the dark

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 2/1/2020 Linda Lew and Elizabeth Cheung
a group of people walking down a sidewalk in front of a store: The Wuhan seafood market at the centre of the pneumonia outbreak has been closed since Wednesday. Photo: Handout © Handout The Wuhan seafood market at the centre of the pneumonia outbreak has been closed since Wednesday. Photo: Handout
  • Relative of one of the 27 people affected by the mystery virus says doctors, hospital refuse to tell them anything
  • Health authority in central China city says updates will be published online in due course

Health authorities in the central China city hit by an outbreak of viral pneumonia are not doing enough to keep people up to date, according to local media reports citing relatives of those affected by the mystery illness.

Authorities in Wuhan said on Tuesday that 27 people had been taken into hospital in December suffering from the virus, of whom seven were in a serious condition.

The circumstances of the outbreak show similarities to the Sars and bird flu epidemics that killed hundreds of people in mainland China and Hong Kong between 2002 and 2004. Most of the people affected in Wuhan worked at the Huanan seafood market in the city, which was later found to have also sold other animals, including birds and rabbits.

a group of police officers riding on the back of a truck: Law enforcement officers stand guard outside the market in Wuhan. Photo: Yangtze Daily © Yangtze Daily Law enforcement officers stand guard outside the market in Wuhan. Photo: Yangtze Daily

When contacted on Thursday, the Wuhan Health Commission declined to give an update on patient numbers or their condition, saying such information would be published on its website and WeChat social media account.

The Beijing News said on its website on Thursday that the 27 patients had been transferred to Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital, which specialises in treating infectious diseases.

The report quoted a female relative of one of them as saying that families were in the dark as neither the hospital nor its doctors would tell them what was going on.

“They only told the families the disease is under control and stabilising. It’s not getting better or worse,” she said.

a group of people riding motorcycles on a city street: All of the people affected by the virus have been transferred to Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital, according to a local news report say. Photo: National Business Daily © National Business Daily All of the people affected by the virus have been transferred to Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital, according to a local news report say. Photo: National Business Daily

The World Health Organisation said yesterday it was in contact with Chinese authorities and efforts were under way to identify the virus.

WHO officials in Beijing did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

Police in Wuhan said on Wednesday they had spoken to eight people with regards to spreading rumours online about the pneumonia outbreak. They urged the public to abide by the law and not fabricate or spread unverified information.

The statement drew criticism from some social media users, however.

“How is this a rumour?” a person wrote on the police’s Weibo account. “This outbreak happened. The public was spreading information because there was nothing from the officials for an entire day.”

a store front at day: A Hong Kong woman was admitted to Tuen Mun Hospital on her return from Wuhan after displaying symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection. Photo: Sam Tsang © Sam Tsang A Hong Kong woman was admitted to Tuen Mun Hospital on her return from Wuhan after displaying symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection. Photo: Sam Tsang

Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s health authority said on Thursday that a local woman was admitted to Tuen Mun Hospital on her return from Wuhan after displaying symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection.

Initial tests, however, came back negative for Sars and bird flu, it said.

“As the patient said she had been to Wuhan before developing symptoms, Tuen Mun Hospital immediately arranged for her to stay in an isolation ward for treatment,” a spokesman for the hospital authority said.

A hospital source said the woman had a fever but it had subsided, adding she was in Wuhan during the Christmas break.

Another source from the authority quoted the woman as saying she had not been to the seafood market.

Professor Yuen Kwok-yung from the University of Hong Kong said next-generation sequencing, a technology that can give insight into DNA details, was still being conducted on the woman’s sample to understand the cause of her illness.

“At the moment we still haven’t identified anything significant,” he said, adding that the result would possibly be available on Friday or Saturday.

The health authority said on Tuesday it was monitoring the situation in Wuhan and had stepped up checks at border controls and hospitals.

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia. 

Copyright (c) 2020. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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