Young woman becomes fifth person in Australia to contract coronavirus

A woman who was on the last flight out of Wuhan to arrive in Sydney has tested positive to coronavirus, taking the number of people being treated in Australia for the potentially deadly illness to five.

NSW Health on Monday afternoon confirmed a 21-year-old woman who arrived at Sydney Airport on Thursday subsequently developed symptoms and tested positive.

Chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said the woman was met at the airport by health officials and given advice on what to do if she became unwell – and she had followed that guidance.

The woman, a student at the University of NSW, was taken to Westmead Hospital, NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant told reporters.

Flight crew arrive at Sydney International Airport on January 23, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. The flight from Wuhan departed the Chinese city prior to officials temporarily closing down transport from the city to help stop the outbreak
There is a potential fifth case of the coronavirus in NSW, with authorities expecting more in the coming days. Source: Getty

She was put into isolation when preliminary test results showed she tested positive for the deadly virus.

A UNSW spokeswoman said the student “did not attend any classes at the university and stayed on her own in campus accommodation with no close contact before she was admitted to hospital”.

The woman was one of five cases being tested for the virus on Sunday, the other four were cleared.

“She travelled on the plane back, she was met at the airport, she received the fact sheet which said if you become unwell then seek care and these are the signs and symptoms,” Dr Chant said.

“She developed some symptoms 24 hours later and they worsened and she presented to the emergency department.”

Three men in NSW – aged 35, 43 and 53 – are also being treated in a Sydney hospital for coronavirus and are listed as stable.

 People wear face masks as they wait at Hankou Railway Station on January 22, 2020 in Wuhan, China. A new infectious coronavirus known as "2019-nCoV" was discovered in Wuhan
Coronavirus cases have been reported in other countries other than China, where the virus originated. Source: Xiaolu Chu/Getty Images

In Victoria, a man in his 50s is being treated at Monash Medical Centre while four of his family members are being quarantined at home.

At a press conference on Monday afternoon, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy said some border measures had been increased.

“As we’ve previously advised, every flight from China is now being met by border security officers going on the plane and distributing information to every passenger trying to identify any unwell passengers,” Prof Murphy said.

But he did reassure the public saying there has been no evidence of human-to-human transmission within Australia.

“We have no evidence there’s a risk to the Australian public,” Prof Murphy said.

Four possible coronavirus cases in WA

Prof Murphy stressed there was no evidence the disease had spread to Australia.

Authorities have now spoken to all but two people who have been in close contact with the three men being treated in Sydney since they arrived from China.

More than 2700 cases have been confirmed in China, and the death roll has risen to 80.

Cases have also been confirmed in Thailand Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, the US, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal, France, Canada and Australia.

Four adults in Western Australia are being tested to see if they have contracted the deadly coronavirus.

The WA Department of Health would not confirm any further details about the patients on Monday but said they each met specific travel criteria.

Passengers from Taiwan, wearing masks arrive at Kansai Airport in Osaka Prefecture on January 27, 2020.
Passengers from Taiwan, wearing masks arrive at Kansai Airport in Osaka Prefecutre on January 27, 2020. Source: The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images

There have been no confirmed cases in WA, with three people returning negative test results.

“I'm advised one of the people tested in Perth may be positive and the others look like negative. But that's still to be confirmed,” Professor Murphy told reporters on Monday.

WA’s chief health officer Andrew Robertson said the risk to the state’s community remained low.

"We are continuing to monitor the situation very carefully and there is no need for alarm," Dr Robertson said.

"The Western Australian health system is very well-prepared to manage infectious disease situations and have well-established systems and processes in place to protect the health of our community."

Any confirmed case of coronavirus would be reported to the federal government, Dr Robertson said.

The health department has issued updated advice to hospitals and GPs to help them identify and control any possible cases.

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