Chinese health officials cannot rule out the spread of a new virus from person to person

yesEIJING – The possibility that a new virus in central China cannot spread among humans cannot be ruled out, although the risk of transmission at this time appears to be low, Chinese officials said on Wednesday.

Forty-one people in Wuhan City have received a preliminary diagnosis of a new coronavirus, a family of viruses that can cause both the common cold and more serious diseases. A 61-year-old man with serious underlying conditions died on Saturday of the coronavirus.

While preliminary investigations indicate that most patients had worked or visited a particular seafood wholesale market, a woman may have contracted her husband’s virus, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said in a public notice.

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The commission said the husband, who got sick first, worked in the wholesale seafood market in Huanan. Meanwhile, the wife said she had not had any exposure to the market.

It is possible that the husband brought home food from the market that later infected his wife, Chuang Shuk-kwan, a Hong Kong health official, told a news conference. But because the wife did not exhibit symptoms until days after her husband, it is also possible that she has infected her.

Chuang and other Hong Kong health officials spoke with reporters on Wednesday after a trip to Wuhan, where the Chinese mainland authorities informed them about the outbreak.

The threat of person-to-person transmission remains low, Chuang said, as hundreds of people, including medical professionals, have been in close contact with infected people and have not been infected.

He echoed the claim of the Wuhan authorities that there is no definitive evidence of transmission from person to person.

The outbreak in Wuhan has raised the spectrum of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. SARS is a type of coronavirus that first hit southern China in late 2002. It then spread to more than two dozen countries, killing almost 800 people.

—Yanan Wang

Associated Press video journalist Katie Tam in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

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