The coronavirus, first reported from China, has led to the lockdown of two Chinese cities with a total population of 20 million and has spread to Singapore and Vietnam.
Junior foreign minister V Muraleedhraran tweeted that the Indian nurse, from Ettumanoor in Kerala, was being treated at Aseer National Hospital for the virus which has killed 17 people and affected over 600 in different parts of the world. However, Lok Sabha MP Anto Antony, and Ashraf Kuttichal, an accredited volunteer of the Indian embassy who visited the Indian nurse at the Saudi hospital, said no one had tested positive. Quoting one Dr Tareq Alazraqi, Kuttichal said the nurse’s condition was improving. It was also learnt that she was shifted to the general ward from isolation at around 3 pm. Ashraf also gave her a mobile phone at her request.
Meanwhile, two of five passengers who returned to Mumbai from Wuhan and other parts of China, were advised admission late Thursday to Kasturba Hospital in Chinchpokli, the city’s main isolation facility, as a precautionary measure. Officials said that barring a mild cold and cough, they didn’t have any sign of the infection.
Singapore confirmed that a man, 68, who had come from Wuhan, had contracted the infection and had been isolated for treatment. His travelling companion, too, had been admitted to a hospital for treatment. Two Chinese citizens in Vietnam have also tested positive.
Meanwhile, around 25 Indian students, of whom 20 are from Kerala, are trapped in Wuhan after the Chinese city of 11 million was locked down to contain the spread of the coronavirus, while 14 students interning at a hospital in Yichang, about 300 km from Wuhan, planned to fly to Kolkata from Kunming airport on Thursday night or Friday morning.
Junior foreign minister Muraleedharan tweeted that “about 100 Indian nurses, mostly from Kerala, working at Al-Hayat hospital have been tested and none except one nurse was found infected by Corona virus. Affected nurse is being treated at Aseer National Hospital and is recovering well.”
Update from @CGIJeddah : About 100 Indian nurses mostly from Kerala working at Al-Hayat hospital have been tested a… https://t.co/8eZuyz4dZa
— V. Muraleedharan (@MOS_MEA) 1579784611000
In Mumbai, officials said the five passengers were put under surveillance soon after they returned from China in the last 48 hours. While three of them are residents of Jogeshwari, Kalyan and Nala Sopara, two are from Pune. “Since the passengers from Kalyan and Nalasopara have shown signs of a mild cold and cough, we have asked them to come and get admitted to Kasturba Hospital so that we can run some checks and rule out any infection,” said the BMC executive health officer, Dr Padmaja Keskar.
Epidemiologist Dr Pradeep Awate said none of them had exhibited any coronavirus symptoms. Two of the five passengers had been to Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The virus has spread to several countries, including the US, Thailand, Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia. “Those two passengers are also currently asymptomatic, like the other three who had been to other parts of China,” said Dr Awate.
The local health officer said that the Nala Sopara traveller, a woman who had stayed in China’s Foshan city — almost 1,000 km south of Wuhan — for six days, had complained of a bodyache and cold when health department officials contacted her but didn’t have fever, a sore throat, abdominal pain or any other symptom.
The Kalyan resident was in Guangzhou — also about 1,000km south of Wuhan — for six days. Officials said the 36-year-old had a cold and cough even before he travelled to China. He developed fever on January 18, which subsided due to medication by January 20, but he did not fully recover from the bout. “Even a complete blood count test showed normal results. None of his family members showed any symptom,” said an official. Dr Ramesh Bharmal, director of BMC’s major hospitals, said samples taken from them would be sent to the National Institute of Virology, Pune, for testing.
A total of 1,323 passengers returning from China and other affected countries have so far been screened at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) since January 18.
Asked how the identified passengers are being tracked, Awate said: “The passengers are aware of the virus spread and how contagious it can be and hence are cooperating. Our health staff visited them at their homes and now we are keeping track of their health status telephonically.”
Usually, any airborne virus has an incubation period of seven to 14 days. “But since this is a new variant of the coronavirus, we don’t have conclusive information about its incubation period. Therefore, we have doubled the passenger tracking period to 28 days just to be on the safe side,” Awate said.
On Monday (January 20), Maharashtra health authorities issued an advisory for the identification, isolation and monitoring of passengers returning from China and other coronavirus-affected Asian countries. “A person with a travel history to the affected countries, mainly China, in the last 14 days or more and presenting an influenza-like illness or severe, acute respiratory illness (SARI), is a suspected patient of the virus. The symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, fever and respiratory problems,” Awate said.
Meanwhile, Indian nurses at Al-Hayat Hospital in Saudi Arabia said they were not ready to report for duty unless the hospital was sanitised and all staff and vistors who had attended to a nurse from the Philippines had been tested for the virus. However, Kuttichal, also an employee of the hospital, said the Filipina’s case differed from that of the Indian nurse and that the Filipina was being treated for lifestyle diseases such as blood pressure and diabetes.