Colombo, Jan. 7 (DM) – Sri Lanka’s health ministry is closely monitoring a pneumonia outbreak in China and will activate a contingency plan at the airport, if the situation worsens; informed sources at the Health Ministry told the Daily Mirror yesterday.
The World Health Organization, on Sunday afternoon, alerted the Health Ministry here of a suspected pneumonia outbreak in the Wuhan Province in China and said Chinese authorities were investigating the exact cause of the outbreak.
Sources said that Sri Lanka’s health officials had been monitoring the situation for the past four days but since no cases were reported out of the Wuhan Province in China, the Ministry would continue to monitor before implementing an urgent contingency plan at the airport and local hospitals, which would include screening passengers arriving from China.
The World Health Organization also alerted the Health Ministry here that 44 cases of suspected pneumonia had been reported from the Wuhan Province out of which 11 were severe.
Chinese authorities have said that pneumonia cases were not out of the ordinary during severe winter but they had launched a probe and a report was expected in a week.
The Wuhan outbreak has caused alerts throughout Asia with stricter checks on passengers at airports and other transit points amid concerns about Sars and bird flu, which in previous outbreaks sickened thousands and killed hundreds, mainly in China and Hong Kong. Airports in Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Malaysia, Macau, Taiwan, South Korea have taken emergency measures, including stricter health control at borders.
In a statement late on Sunday, the Hong Kong Center for Health Protection said it had received notification from the mainland’s National Health Commission on the latest information about the Wuhan cases.
“While the causative pathogen and cause of infection are still under investigation, respiratory pathogens including influenza viruses, avian influenza viruses, adenovirus, Severe acute respiratory syndrome [Sars] and Middle East respiratory syndrome have been ruled out,” it said.
Reports so far suggested the pneumonia could be caused by a rare virus or a previously unknown one and identification may take up to a week.