Investigation underway into potential case of deadly new virus in NSW

Health authorities in NSW are trying to determine whether one person who recently returned from the Chinese city of Wuhan has the deadly coronavirus.

The person who is currently in a NSW hospital returned from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus originated, after displaying flu like symptoms.

A Queensland man was cleared of the disease on Wednesday, after falling ill upon returning from Wuhan earlier this month.

On Thursday, a flight from Wuhan touched down in Sydney with passengers and crew members were wearing face masks.

Australia is working to keep out the deadly coronavirus, as a flight from the city at the centre of the outbreak arrives in Sydney. Source: AAP

Those on board who flagged health concerns had their temperatures checked. Ambulances and laboratories were on stand-by for rapid testing, hospitalisation and quarantining if needed.

NSW Health had doctors and nurses experienced in infection control at the airport working alongside the Australian Border Force. Virology experts were also there.

No ill passengers were found on the flight. However, those exposed to the virus may not display flu-like symptoms for up to a week.

"I'm pleased to report that no ill passengers were found on that flight," Australia's chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy told reporters after the China Eastern Airlines flight from Wuhan arrived at Sydney Airport on Thursday.  

"It is always possible ... there could be people incubating the virus on that plane today."

A passenger wearing a protective mask on arrival at Sydney International Airport in Sydney on Thursday. Source: AAP Image/Joel Carrett

Is the coronavirus a threat to Australia?

As of right now, Australia has no confirmed cases of coronavirus, however outbound travel from Wuhan has been banned and Australians have been encouraged to reconsider travelling there.

In China, more than 570 cases of the disease have been confirmed, and 17 people have died. There have been confirmed cases in Thailand, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and the United States.

Health authorities say the risk to the Australian public is relatively low but the World Health Organisation believes the virus is capable of limited human-to-human transfer.

However, there is not a vaccine for the virus and experts still don’t quite know how virulent the virus is and how much contact you have to have to contract it.

“We know coronaviruses spread through droplets, sneezing and coughing on each other, and coughing seems to be one of the symptoms of this infection,” Macquarie University health systems professor Janaki Amin told AAP on Thursday.

A couple wearing masks hug in front of Beijing Station in Beijing, China on January 22, 2020, prior to China's Lunar New Year holiday. Source: The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images

Dr Amin added the masks are not useful to those who are wanting to protect themselves from the virus.

"Masks used for the spread of infectious diseases are to stop infected people spreading it to others,” Dr Amin said. “Not to protect you from infection yourself.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says information regarding the disease will be displayed at all major international airports and ports around Australia.

NSW Health protection executive director Jeremy McAnulty on Wednesday said identifying potential carriers at the airport was "not foolproof by any means" because people who've been exposed to the virus may not display symptoms for days.

Canberra has updated its travel advice urging Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Wuhan.

Workers are busy making high-quality masks at Kurebaa Company Office in Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture on Jan. 23, 2020. Source: The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images

"The Chinese authorities have put new measures in place to contain the spread of the coronavirus," the federal government advice states.

"This includes wearing masks in public places and avoiding travel in and out of Wuhan."

One person in a NSW hospital is being investigated after returning from Wuhan in the past fortnight with flu-like symptoms, NSW Health says.

There have been cases confirmed in the US, Japan, Thailand and South Korea as well as China.

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