BERLIN - Germany, Taiwan and Japan have all reported the first cases of a new strain of coronavirus in people who have not recently visited China, where the deadly outbreak originated.
The development of the virus spreading from human-to-human contact in countries outside of the outbreak is bolstering the fears of health officials across the globe about the virus’s potential ability to spread.
A 33-year-old man from the Starnberg area south of Munich has been confirmed as Germany’s first case of the new coronavirus, authorities announced Tuesday.
The man is believed to have been infected by a Chinese colleague who visited his workplace to attend a company training event in the state of Bavaria last week. Health officials say he is in a “medically good state.”
Andreas Zapf, head of the Bavarian State Office for Health and Food Safety said during a press conference that the woman who was visiting from Shanghai “started to feel sick on the flight home on January 23” and later tested positive for the new virus. The woman had been visited just a few days earlier by her parents, who come from the worst-affected Wuhan region in China.
The Bavarian State Ministry of Health and Care said in a press release that the coronavirus patient is being monitored and kept in isolation as a precaution, but stress that he is doing well. The agency also stated that officials consider the risk for the Bavarian population to contract the new coronavirus to be low.
On Monday, the German company was informed of the positive test, and it informed authorities and employees. An employee who had been at the training session came forward and said he had experienced bronchitis-like symptoms over the weekend, though they had receded and he came to work on Monday.
Authorities decided when they received positive test results Monday evening to admit him to a hospital and put him in isolation for monitoring.
Auto parts supplier Webasto confirmed that it was the company involved and that the man works at its headquarters in Stockdorf, south of Munich. It canceled all travel to and from China for the next two weeks and said that employees at Stockdorf are free to work from home this week.
Bavarian authorities are working to figure out whom the patient had been in contact with and also set up a hotline on Monday for concerned people. Bavaria's state health minister, Melanie Huml, said authorities are considering whether it makes sense to take people's temperatures at airports.
A woman wearing a protective mask prays at the Lungshan temple during the fourth day of the Lunar New year of the Rat in Taipei on January 28, 2020. Taiwan has uncovered eight cases of the deadly coronavirus so far, the latest a Taiwanese man in his (Photo by SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images)
Taiwan also reported its first case of coronavirus in a patient who had not recently traveled to China, Reuters reported.
The newest coronavirus case in Taiwan is the country’s eighth overall, but it is the first case of domestic transmission.
Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Centre said that the new patient is a man in his 50s and that he contracted the virus from his wife, who was diagnosed with the coronovirus in Taiwan after returning home from a work trip to China, according to Reuters. The Command Centre said that the man is in stable condition.
Japan also reported its first domestic case of coronavirus Tuesday, according to The Straits Times. The Japanese patient is a bus driver in his late 60s who lives in the Nara prefecture, and who had driven two groups of tourists from Wuhan earlier this month.
The patient first sought medical attention on Jan. 14 after showing symptoms of a common cold and was sent home with medicine when no abnormalities were found. His symptoms continued to worsen, and he was hospitalized and diagnosed with the coronovairus on Jan. 25, the Straits Times reported.
Nara prefecture officials say they are closely monitoring the health of all people who have come in contact with the bus driver and that none of them have shown any flu-like symptoms thus far.
Malik Peiris, chair in virology at the University of Hong Kong and adviser on the World Health Organization's coronavirus emergency committee, said it is reassuring that significant transmission of the virus has not been detected in countries where it has been exported so far.
He said the global health community is urgently awaiting more detailed information from China about how the virus is spreading between people and at what stage they can infect others.
Beijing’s official response has “vastly improved” since the 2002-03 SARS outbreak, which also originated in China, but “fears of a global contagion are not put to bed,” said Vishnu Varathan at Mizuho Bank in Singapore.
For now, more than 50 million people in Wuhan and nearby cities are being kept in place in the most far-reaching disease control measures ever imposed.
Other territories and countries are enacting strict prevention measures as well. Hong Kong’s leader said it will cut all rail links to mainland China and halve the number of flights to limit the virus’s spread.
The U.S. government chartered a plane to fly out diplomats from the U.S. Consulate in Wuhan, where the outbreak started, and other Americans.
A Japanese-chartered Boeing 767 departed for Wuhan to fly out its citizens, the first of two possible flights, and South Korea also said it will send a plane to the city in central China. France, Mongolia and other governments also planned evacuations
.Italian authorities were filmed Monday wearing hazmat suits as they checked the temperatures of every passenger arriving to Milan on a flight from Hong Kong as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus.
Brittany Clennet, who recorded the video, told Storyful that the Italian authorities handed out information cards to passengers as they exited the plane urging them to contact the Italian Ministry of Health if they experience any respiratory symptoms in the next two weeks.
The U.S. State Department updated its security warning Monday to urge Americans to avoid travel to China altogether.
The agency earlier advised U.S. residents only avoid traveling to the Wubei province, which is where the city of Wuhan is located.
This story was reported from Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed.