Coronavirus spread takes terrifying turn as victims infected without visiting China

Authorities in several countries have confirmed the transmission of the deadly coronavirus outside of China.

On Tuesday Japan, Vietnam and Germany confirmed patients had contracted the virus despite not travelling to China.

Late on Tuesday (local time), Germany announced a further three patients had been infected on top of one male who was first diagnosed with the virus.

“It was expected,” Germany’s health minister Jens Spahn said of the 33-year-old Bavarian patient.

Germany has identified the cause of the human to human transmission from a Chinese woman who has since been quarantined.

All four infected are employees at the same company as the Chinese woman who lives in Shanghai but had visited German offices for a conference last week.

A patient is taken from an ambulance in Wuhan on Sunday where 100 people have died from the virus. Source: Getty
A patient is taken from an ambulance in Wuhan on Sunday where 100 people have died from the virus. Source: Getty

She had earlier been visited by her parents who are from Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus, German media reported.

“A total of around 40 employees at the company have been identified as potential close contacts (with their Chinese colleague). As a precaution, the people concerned are to be tested on Wednesday,” Bavaria’s Health Minister Melanie Huml said in a statement.

The news was met with fear online, with Twitter users reacting to the spread of the virus outside of China.

“This is a big deal,” one person wrote.

Australians remain trapped in coronavirus epicentre

Around 400 Australians remain trapped in the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak as the government scrambles to try and find a way to bring them home.

The city of Wuhan, where 100 people have died from the virus, was placed into lockdown last week.

A mother checks on her son while cycling in Wuhan on Monday. Source: Getty
A mother checks on her son while cycling in Wuhan on Monday. Source: Getty

Roughly 400 Australian citizens have registered to be evacuated from the city in Hubei with Australian embassy officials meeting with Chinese authorities in Beijing to discuss the diplomatic options available to help them.

"Right now, the Australian government, through our embassy, is looking to deploy, working with the Chinese government, consular officials into Hubei province, into Wuhan," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday.

Japan and the United States are among the countries reportedly planning to fly charter planes into Wuhan to evacuate their own citizens.

The coronavirus death toll has jumped to 106 and there are now more than 4500 confirmed cases of infection across mainland China, including 91 in the nation’s capital Beijing, 1100km north.

A daunting map created by the Johns Hopkins Centre for Systems Science and Engineering shows the spread of the virus across China’s different provinces.

While the epicentre is located in central China, the map shows there is no escape for the provinces forming China’s border.

In the country’s southwest, Guangxi, which neighbours Vietnam, has 51 confirmed cases.

This map from the John Hopkins CSSE shows the spread of coronavirus across China. Source: John Hopkins CSSE
This map from the John Hopkins CSSE shows the spread of coronavirus across China. Source: John Hopkins CSSE

In China’s northeast, the province of Heilongjiang, which homes the iconic city of Harbin, there have been 33 confirmed cases and one death.

Guangdong, which neighbours Hong Kong in the south, and homes the major cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen, has 207 confirmed cases.

Daily images from Wuhan continue to show the slow demise of a once bustling city home to 11 million people, with streets empty and supermarket shelves bare.

Footage from hospitals show distressed patients crammed into corridors while video spreading on Chinese social media shows doctors without sleep breaking down.

Over the weekend the Chinese government stated they had isolated the virus to the heavily scrutinised Huanan Seafood Market, which was closed on January 1, however an academic paper from leading Chinese scientists states the virus could have been spread to humans long before the cluster of cases linked to the wet market.

An array of exotic animals were known to be sold at the market, with China since implementing a ban on wildlife trading across the nation.

The Huanan Seafood Market under police guard. Source: Getty
The Huanan Seafood Market under police guard. Source: Getty

Australia ramps up China travel warning

Australians are now being told to “reconsider your need to travel’ and to avoid Hubei province entirely.

“Due to the outbreak of novel coronavirus we now advise you 'reconsider your need to travel' to China overall and 'do not travel' to Hubei Province," updated Smarttraveller advice read.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne took to Twitter on early on Wednesday to urge Australians to act accordingly.

Five people are being treated in Australian hospitals for the virus, with four of those cases in NSW alone.

NSW school children have been told to stay at home if they've returned from China within the past 14 days - the incubation period of the virus.

Authorities are bracing for more infections to be confirmed in Australia, and are working to trace all human contact made by infected patients since they entered the country.

Four adult patients in Western Australia were cleared of the virus after undergoing tests on Tuesday evening.

On Tuesday, Queensland MP Duncan Pegg hit out at a fake “racist” health warning telling people to stay away from Brisbane suburbs with large Chinese populations due to the coronavirus threat.

Australian breakthrough with coronavirus

Australian scientists have managed to replicate the coronavirus in laboratory conditions in a medical breakthrough that could help speed up the development of a vaccine to combat the deadly virus.

Researchers at Melbourne's Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity have become the first to recreate the virus outside of China.

The lab-grown virus - which was developed from an infected patient - will assist with accurate diagnosis of the disease across the world.

It will be shared with expert laboratories working closely with the World Health Organisation in Europe, along with laboratories across Australia.

It will also help assess the effectiveness of trial vaccines.

Chinese officials had released the genome sequence of the novel coronavirus which first surfaced in its Hubei province in December.

But the Peter Doherty Institute's Virus Identification Laboratory Head Dr Julian Druce says this development will be a "game changer for diagnosis".

"Having the real virus means we now have the ability to actually validate and verify all test methods, and compare their sensitivities and specificities," he said on Wednesday.

The virus is expected to generate an antibody test, which allows detection of the virus in patients who haven't displayed symptoms and were therefore unaware they had it.

With AAP

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