Indian school teacher first foreigner to contract SARS-like coronavirus in China


World, Asia

Preeti Maheshwari, who works at an international school in Shenzhen, has been admitted in hospital after she fell seriously ill last Friday.

Medical staff members carry a patient into the Jinyintan hospital, where patients infected by a mysterious SARS-like virus are being treated, in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on January 18, 2020. (Photo | AFP)

Beijing: A 45-year-old Indian school teacher is undergoing treatment for a new strain of pneumonia that is spreading in the Chinese cities of Wuhan and Shenzhen.

Preeti Maheshwari, who teaches at an international school in Shenzhen, is the first foreigner to have contracted the mysterious SARS-like coronavirus. She has been admitted to hospital after she fell seriously ill on Friday.

Doctors confirmed she was suffering from the virus and is being treated for it, her husband Ashuman Khowal told PTI from Shenzhen.

The virus has caused alarm because of its connection to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) which killed nearly 650 people in China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

Ashuman Khowal, a businessman from Delhi, said Preeti Maheswari was being treated in the intensive care unit and is currently on a ventilator and other supporting systems.

Khowal, who is allowed to visit the patient for a few hours every day, said she was unconscious and doctors have said she could take a long time to recover.

According to reports from Wuhan, where the virus started surfacing a few weeks ago, 17 new cases have been reported, taking the total to 62.

A total of 19 have been cured and discharged from hospital; the rest remain in isolation and are receiving treatment, state-run Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday.

India on Friday issued an advisory to its nationals visiting China.

"An infection with a novel coronavirus has been reported from China. As on 11th January, 2020, 41 confirmed cases have been reported so far," said the travel warning.

Over 500 Indian students study in Wuhan's medical colleges. But most of them appear to have left for home for the Chinese New Year holidays.

The clinical signs and symptoms are mainly fever with a few patients having difficulty in breathing, the Indian travel warning said.

The mode of transmission is unclear. However, so far there is little evidence of significant human-to-human transmission, it said.

Patients showed symptoms such as fever or cough, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said.

Epidemiological investigations into the 17 new cases are underway and close contacts are being traced, the authority said, adding that Wuhan will continue to expand the search area, identify suspected cases and conduct sampling tests.

Epidemiological analysis of previously published cases found that some cases had no exposure to Wuhan's Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which is believed to be related to most of the infected cases. It has been temporarily closed while disinfection is carried out, the Xinhua report said.