A total of 59 people have been admitted to hospital with an unidentified form of penumonia, while nine more patients were found with fever or respiratory symptoms after returning to Hong Kong from the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
In Singapore, the Ministry of Health earlier said it had been informed of a suspected case, involving a three-year-old girl from China who had pneumonia and a history of travel to Wuhan.
Health authorities in the mainland city said on Sunday night the virus was not Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) or Mers (Middle East respiratory syndrome) but that a final identification of the strain was still in progress.
Although the total number of infections had increased, there were fewer people in serious condition, falling to seven from 11, according to a statement on the website of the Wuhan Municipal Commission. At least 163 people who had been in close contact with those infected were placed under medical observation. A seafood market in the Hubei province city was the site of the outbreak.
The authorities had previously ruled out common flu, avian flu, adenovirus infection and other common respiratory diseases. Further laboratory tests and investigations were under way.
The commission added that a preliminary investigation found no evidence of human-to-human transmission, and none of the medical staff had been infected. Some of the patients are vendors at the same seafood market, which has already been shut down and sanitised, it said.
Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection (CHP) said public hospitals had admitted eight more patients, including a boy, nine, and a two-year-old girl, in the 24 hours to noon on Sunday with fever, respiratory infection or pneumonia symptoms who had also been to Wuhan in the past 14 days. At least seven of them confirmed that they had not been to any wet market there.
The patients were all in stable condition. Apart from the two children, the other new cases reported involved four men and two women, aged between 22 and 55. The nine-year-old boy, who was seen by a private doctor, was the latest suspected case revealed.
All patients were quarantined and being treated in Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret, Ruttonjee, Tseung Kwan O and United Christian hospitals. Four were confirmed to have flu or other related illnesses, while the others were waiting for test results.
Meanwhile, Chinese University’s student union said a 20-year-old female student residing in a United College dormitory was hospitalised for suspected pneumonia symptoms.
It was understood she had travelled to Wuhan recently.
A university spokeswoman said the student returned to Hong Kong on December 29 and developed symptoms on Saturday. She and her roommate were sent to hospital for further checks.
That takes the total number of suspected cases reported in the city to 17. But, of eight other cases reported by Saturday evening, none of the patients were found to have the unidentified strain. The Hospital Authority said at least five people among all those identified as suspected cases had been discharged from hospital.
“The [Hong Kong] government has been continuously in close contact with the relevant mainland authorities for the latest updates … people are also reminded not to visit the wet market or eat wild animals when travelling,” Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee said.