THE deadly coronavirus is beginning to spread between people who haven’t visited China, experts have warned.
It’s the first time the killer infection has been transmitted outside of the crisis-hit country – sparking fears it could sweep worldwide.
The news comes as the Chinese president today vowed to stop the “devil” virus after killing more than 100 people so far.
One of the new cases involves a taxi driver from Japan who was driving tour groups of people visiting from Wuhan, where the virus originated.
The patient, in his 60s, was taken to hospital with pneumonia and quickly diagnosed with the new coronavirus.
Meanwhile, a 33-year-old in Germany is believed to have been infected by a Chinese colleague who was visiting his workplace – auto parts supplier Webasto.
German health authorities said the man, from Munich, has been put into isolation at a hospital – but stressed his condition is good.
He had taken part in a training session at his workplace last Tuesday, which also included an employee of the same company visiting from China.
Andreas Zapf, the head of Bavaria’s office for health and food safety, said the Chinese co-worker hadn’t previously shown any symptoms.
She flew flew home on Thursday and went to a doctor after feeling ill on the flight before testing positive for the new virus.
The woman lives in Shanghai, but had been visited a few days earlier by her parents, who come from the worst-affected Wuhan area.
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.
After receiving positive test results, authorities decide to admit him to a hospital and put him in isolation for monitoring.
Webasto confirmed that it was the company involved and that the man works at its headquarters in Stockdorf, south of Munich.
It cancelled 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.
Taiwan also reported its first case of domestic transmission after a man in his 50s was infected by his wife, who had returned from work in China.
She was later diagnosed with coronavirus while the man remains in a stable condition, Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Centre said.
All the previous cases people who had tested positive on the island had been infected first in China, they added.
Meanwhile, Vietnam also confirmed a domestic case of coronavirus in a man was in contact with his sick father who had returned from Wuhan.
Experts say it is “unsurprising” to see that the virus has now started to spread between people outside of China.
Dr Michael Head, senior research fellow at the University of Southampton, said: “The reported human to human transmission in Germany and Japan is unsurprising to see.
“We will continue to see further similar cases outside of China, but the indications are at this stage that onwards transmission will be limited.”
We will continue to see further similar cases outside of China
Dr Michael Head
Prof Paul Hunter, of the Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia described the case in Germany as “worrying”.
He said: “If the Chinese woman was indeed asymptomatic at the time of the training session it would confirm reports of spread before symptoms develop making standard control strategies less effective.”
Where did coronavirus start? From bats to snakes – the theories on deadly virus’ origins
The killer coronavirus was spread from bats to snakes to humans, experts have claimed.
An outbreak of the virus is understood to have started at an open air fish market in the Chinese city of Wuhan – which has since been put in lockdown after 25 people died and more than 600 people were infected globally.
A new study published in the China Science Bulletin this week claimed that the new coronavirus shared a strain of virus found in bats.
Previous deadly outbreaks of SARS and Ebola were also believed to have originated in the flying mammal.
Experts had thought the new virus wasn’t capable of causing an epidemic as serious as those outbreaks because its genes were different.
But this latest research appeared to prove otherwise – as scientists scrabble to produce a vaccine.
In a statement, the researchers said: “The Wuhan coronavirus’ natural host could be bats … but between bats and humans there may be an unknown intermediate.”
Meanwhile, scientists at Peking University also claim that the deadly virus was passed to humans from bats – but say it was through a mutation in snakes.
The researchers said that the new strain is made up of a combination of one that affects bats and another unknown coronavirus.
They believe that combined genetic material from both bats and this unknown strain picked up a protein that allows viruses bind to certain host cells – including those of humans.
After analysing the genes of the strains the team found that snakes were susceptible to the most similar version of the coronavirus.
It meant that they likely provided a “reservoir” for the viral strain to grow stronger and replicate.
Snakes are sold at the Huanan Seafood Market in central Wuhan and may have jumped to other animals before passing to humans, they claim.
But a senior researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, who asked not to be named, said the findings should be treated with caution.
He told the South China Morning Post: “It is based on calculation by a computer model.
“Whether it will match what happens in real life is inconclusive.
“The binding protein is important, but it is just one of the many things under investigation. There may be other proteins involved.”
The expert believes that the new strain was an RNA virus, meaning that its mutation speed was 100 times faster than that of a DNA virus such as smallpox.
Germany is the second European country to report a confirmed case of the virus.
Authorities in France confirmed three cases in recent days all Chinese citizens who recently travelled there.
The new type of coronavirus has infected thousands of people in China.
Nearly all of the cases outside China are among people who recently arrived from there.
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.
The state health minister, Melanie Huml, said authorities are considering whether it makes sense to take people’s temperatures at airports.
Chinese President Xi Jinping told the visiting chief of the World Health Organisation on Tuesday that he was confident of winning the battle against “devil” coronavirus.
A growing number of countries are planning to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan, a central city of 11 million people and epicentre of the outbreak. A chartered plane taking out U.S. consulate staff was set to leave Wuhan on Wednesday, a spokeswoman at the U.S. embassy in Beijing said.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Xi discussed ways to protect Chinese and foreigners in areas affected by the coronavirus and “possible alternatives” to evacuations, a WHO spokesman said.
“The virus is a devil and we cannot let the devil hide,” state television quoted Xi as saying.
The virus is a devil and we cannot let the devil hide
“China will strengthen international cooperation and welcomes the WHO participation in virus prevention.
“We believe that the WHO and international community will give a calm, objective and rational assessment of the virus and China is confident of winning the battle against the virus.”
Meanwhile researchers predict the outbreak could last at least several months.
Professor David Fisman, of the University of Toronto, told AFP: “The best-case scenario, you would have something… where we go through the spring into the summer, and then it dies down.”
It comes as China says it has evidence that coronavirus can spread before a person shows symptoms of infection, which include sneezing and coughing,
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that of 37 cases identified outside of China, three were detected without the onset of symptoms.
This suggests people may be spreading the virus without being aware they have it.