World

Wuhan virus: Europe reports first human-to-human case

German man, 33, was infected by colleague visiting from China

MUNICH/BEIJING Japan, Vietnam and Germany are among the first countries outside China to record human-to-human transmission of the new coronavirus.

Japan's Health Ministry said yesterday the infected man is a tour bus driver in his 60s from Nara prefecture, who had contact with visitors from Wuhan between Jan 8-16.

He began showing symptoms on Jan 14 and was hospitalised on Jan 25 before being diagnosed, according to the statement.

Another man in his 40s who lives in Wuhan was also confirmed to have contracted the virus, the ministry said. The new infections bring the total number of confirmed Japanese cases to six.

Details of the Vietnam case are unclear, but the World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed the case involved human-to-human transmission.

The German man was infected by a colleague visiting from China, officials said yesterday, in what appeared to be the first human-to-human transmission in Europe.

Other confirmed cases in Europe of the viral outbreak have so far involved patients who had recently been to China.

In this instance, the 33-year-old German attended a training session held by a visiting Chinese colleague on Jan 21 at the office of car parts supplier Webasto in Stockdorf, in Germany's southern Bavaria region.

The Chinese woman "started to feel sick on the flight home on Jan 23", said Mr Andreas Zapf, head of the Bavarian State Office for Health and Food Safety.

She had recently visited her parents in the Wuhan area.

The German man tested positive for the virus on Monday evening after reporting flu-like symptoms.

He remains in hospital in an isolation ward. Mr Zapf said he "was doing well".

A spokesman for the Robert Koch Institute, Germany's centre for disease prevention and control, told AFP the German case appeared to be the first instance of human-to-human transmission outside Asia.

In China yesterday, President Xi Jinping said the country was sure of defeating the "devil" coronavirus that has killed 106 people and infected over 4,500.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Mr Xi met in Beijing to discuss how to protect Chinese and foreigners in areas affected by the virus and "possible" evacuation alternatives, a WHO spokesman said.

'THE VIRUS IS A DEVIL'

"The virus is a devil and we cannot let the devil hide," state television quoted Mr Xi as saying.

"China will strengthen international cooperation and welcomes the WHO participation in virus prevention... China is confident of winning the battle against the virus."

A WHO panel of 16 independent experts twice last week declined to declare an international emergency.

Traditionally, the WHO is reluctant to antagonise or ostracise countries dealing with epidemics for fear of undermining future willingness to report cases of infectious disease outbreaks.

Known as 2019-nCoV, the newly identified coronavirus can cause pneumonia and, like other respiratory infections, spreads among people in droplets from coughs and sneezes. - AFP, REUTERS

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