Dr Irani Thevarajan talks to ABC 24 about the mystery pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan, China.


The World Health Organization says a mysterious
new virus detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan, is likely to be from the same family
that produced the deadly SARS and MERS outbreaks. So far 59 people have been infected with the
virus, putting health authorities all over the world on high alert, as scientists race
to find out more about it. Dr Irani Thevarajan is an infectious disease
physician at the Doherty Institute and joins me now, from Melbourne. Good afternoon to you this afternoon, how
concerning is the detection of this mystery new virus? Yes the virus, at this stage is being recognised
as being part of the coronovirus family, as you correctly mentioned is also is part of
the larger coronovirus SARS family. Coronoviruses can also cause the common cold,
so at this stage, what we are aware of is that the virus has been identified as a coronovirus,
in some of the affected cases. There is still a lot of work being done to
try and work out exactly what this coronovirus strain is. It doesn’t appear at this stage to have had
any of the concerns about there being any person-to-person transmission of this virus,
and there also doesn’t appear to be any mortality linked to any of the cases, that have been
affected by the virus. So at this stage, it’s a syndrome and cluster
of infections that we are aware of and the health community is on alert but we haven’t
seen any evidence to make us concerned that it has the same severity that our past experience
with SARS has. What symptoms have patients with this virus
presented with? It’s been reported that the typical symptoms
have been fever, as well as respiratory symptoms, such as cough, shortness of breath, runny
nose, a little bit like what most patients present with a common cold. But we have limited information on the cases
that have occurred in China, so what has been reported so far we have a sense that it is
a respiratory syndrome but we don’t know the exact breadth of the symptoms yet. In the past there have been some concerns
about China’s transparency in relation to new viruses, are there any concerns that China
might be keeping some information about this one secret for now? We are not aware of any concerns, there is
a large public health network that we are all connected to, when the virus was identified,
most laboratories and clinicians were notified that this virus was a member of the coronovirus
family so we are not really aware, and as information we have had daily updates on this
evolving outbreak and there is nothing to suggest there is any information being withheld
from the larger global community. In terms of the timing, it is similar to the
timing of year as when the SARS virus emerged, is there anything significant of the beginning
of the year in Asia for outbreaks perhaps being a seasonal virus for instance, and why
that might provide authorities with increased concern? Some viruses have a seasonal predisposition,
certainly coronoviruses and rhinoviruses have a season pattern of when they appear. I’m not sure if the start of the year in China
is one of those seasonal points, however there’s a lot of activity occurring, so there has
been a large spring festival in China and we know the Chinese New Year festival is coming,
so there is a lot of mobility of individuals around China at this time of the year. So at the moment you are interested but not
alarmed? We’re interested, we are on alert, we are
communicating with our international colleagues so we get daily updates but we haven’t had
any information thus far to make us alarmed. Dr Irani Thevarajan, thank you so much for
speaking to ABC News. Thank you.

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