India's first case of Coronavirus has been reported in Kerala, the government said today amid worldwide panic over the viral outbreak that has killed 170 in China. A medical student studying in Wuhan University has been quarantined after she reported a throat infection.
"One positive case of Novel Coronavirus patient, of a student studying in Wuhan University, has been reported in Kerala," the Health Ministry said in a statement. The patient, a woman, is in isolation in the hospital, said the statement, adding that she is "stable and is being closely monitored".
One of 20 samples had tested positive for Coronavirus, said Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja. The results of three more samples are yet to be released. "The patient had returned from Wuhan and is now kept in isolation at General Hospital in Thrissur. She is stable," she said, urging people travelling from China to report to the health department. The medical student was admitted into the isolation ward after she "self-reported" a minor throat infection.
Three more suspected cases are in isolation wards in Thrissur.
Over 800 people are under surveillance at their homes in Kerala for possible exposure to the virus. "We are well prepared with multi-level surveillance, support systems on the ground. A 28-day home quarantine is crucial," the Kerala minister added.
Possible cases are also being monitored in isolation wards of hospitals in various cities including Delhi and Mumbai.
The health ministry had asked people who have a travel history to China since January 1 to report at the nearest health facility if they experienced any symptoms such as fever, cough or breathing trouble. Nearly 30,000 passengers have been screened at various airports across the country.
The government has been in consultation with China on evacuating 250 to 300 Indians believed to be stuck in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak. An official was quoted by Reuters as saying that bringing Indian nationals from Wuhan was not the best option due to the risk of infection but increased pressure from the citizens, most of them students, and their parents had forced them to keep an aircraft on standby.
The outbreak has spread to at least 16 other countries with 104 confirmed cases. No deaths have occurred outside China.
The virus has caused alarm because it is still too early to know how dangerous it is and how easily it spreads between people. Also because it is new, humans have not been able to build immunity to it. Scientists hope to be testing the first possible vaccines in three months' time. China is testing the HIV drug Aluvia as a treatment.
The new virus has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS, which killed nearly 800 people in mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-03. The World Health Organization's Emergency Committee is still to decide whether the virus constitutes a global emergency.
Like other respiratory infections, it spreads between people in droplets from coughs and sneezes .It has an incubation of between one and 14 days, and there are signs it may spread before symptoms show.