Health authorities have confirmed that a woman travelling from China to Thailand has been infected with a new strain of the coronavirus linked to a worrying outbreak in Wuhan.
The World Health Organisation said on Monday it was working with Thai officials after the case was identified and the woman hospitalised on 8 January, marking the first case the mystery illness has been detected outside China.
The WHO said in a statement: “The possibility of cases being identified in other countries was not unexpected, and reinforces why WHO calls for ongoing active monitoring and preparedness in other countries.”
A total of 41 people have been diagnosed with the pathogen, which appears to come from a new type of coronavirus, the Wuhan municipal health commission said in a statement at the weekend.
On Saturday one of those cases, a 61-year-old man, died from the pneumonia illness. Seven patients have been discharged and six remain in critical condition, according to the commission.
Residents and observers are particularly wary of an outbreak in China after the Sars outbreak in 2002 and 2003, which spread to at least 37 countries and killed more than 800 people. Initial efforts by officials to cover up the epidemic is believed to have worsened its impact.
Chinese authorities have said that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission. Hundreds of contacts with patients, including health workers, have not contracted the virus.
But ahead of China’s spring festival when China celebrates lunar new year and millions of people travel across the country to go home, authorities have cautioned residents to be on the lookout for symptoms such as fevers, difficulty breathing or body aches.
Coronaviruses come from the same family of viruses that circulate among animals and have given rise to outbreaks such as Sara and Mers. Authorities believe it is linked to a seafood market in Wuhan that also sells wild animals.
The Beijing Center for Disease Control and Prevention has said the risk posed by the outbreak depends on “whether and how well it spreads between people, the severity of resulting illness”, and medical and other countermeasures available to contain the virus.