TOKYO (Reuters) – A Japanese coach driver has been infected with the new coronavirus after coming into contact with Chinese visitors, officials said on Tuesday, the first reported case of a possible transmission inside Japan.
The man in his 60s from Nara prefecture had contact with people from the central Chinese city of Wuhan – the epicentre of the outbreak – between Jan. 8-16, Japan’s health ministry said.
The case will fuel concerns about the spread of the flu-like virus that broke out in Wuhan at the end of last year and has killed 106 people and infected more than 4,500.
Confirmation of any sustained human-to-human spread of the virus outside of China, as well as any documented deaths, would bolster the case for reconvening the World Health Organisation’s Emergency Committee to consider again whether to declare a public health emergency of international concern.
Both Germany and Vietnam have reported cases of the disease transmitted inside their borders.
The Japanese driver began showing symptoms on Jan. 14 and was hospitalized 11 days later, according to the health ministry statement.
A ministry official, briefing reporters, said the driver had been in close contact with 18 people.
Reporting by Kevin Buckland and Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Andrew Heavens