State broadcaster China Central Television announced Tuesday that the National Health Commission had deployed a team of experts to Hubei Province’s city of Wuhan to conduct “relevant inspection and verification work” following the emergence of over two dozen cases of an atypical pneumonia within the area, reported AFP.
This followed a Monday alert issued to the city via the Wuhan municipal health committee, which revealed the area’s hospitals were treating a “successive series of patients with unexplained pneumonia.”
Chinese news outlet The Paper revealed that at least 27 individuals from the city were hospitalized.
"Of the 27 cases, seven were critical, the rest were under control, and two patients are expected to be discharged from hospital in near future," The Paper reported, according to a translation by AFP.
Citing hospital officials, The People’s Daily reported that the cause of the illnesses remains unclear and specified that they “cannot confirm” if it is SARS. Symptoms of the virus are similar to those of pneumonia and bird flu.
Data from the World Health Organization notes that approximately 348 individuals from mainland China died from SARS - which originated in China’s Guangdong province - between November 2002 and July 2003.
Another 298 individuals contracted and died from SARS in Hong Kong during the same period - which explains Hong Kong health officials’ urgency concerning the recent pneumonia outbreak.
“The situation in Wuhan is unusual, and we are not sure about the reasons behind the outbreak yet,” Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu Chee said on December 31, as reported by the South China Morning Post. “Since we are now in the holiday season, and Hong Kong has close transport ties with Wuhan, we must stay alert.”