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Vietnam beefs up border health screening amid pneumonia outbreak in China

Thursday, January 09, 2020, 17:25 GMT+7
Vietnam beefs up border health screening amid pneumonia outbreak in China
A sign notifying passengers of body temperature checking is put at a terminal at Cam Ranh International Airport in the south-central Vietnamese province of Khanh Hoa in this provided photo.

Border authorities in Vietnam have been ordered to closely monitor the body temperature of all incoming visitors in the wake of a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

Non-contact body temperature meters are to be utilized for the health screening, the General Department of Preventive Medicine under the health ministry told local health departments.

It also cautioned Vietnamese businesses against high-risk visitors who have recently traveled to Wuhan City in the central Chinese province of Hubei, where a total of 59 people have been attacked by the pneumonia outbreak, including seven who remain in a critical condition.

A new coronavirus that comes from the same family of viruses as the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) has been identified as the pathogen for the outbreak, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported on Thursday.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to SARS, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

SARS infected more than 8,000 people, claiming 916 lives worldwide in 2002-03, mostly due to a lack of knowledge about the disease.

A coronavirus is also the culprit for the fatal Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

MERS has since killed 851 people globally, according to WHO.

In Hong Kong, authorities say 21 people have been hospitalized after returning from Wuhan in recent days and displaying flu-like illnesses but none were confirmed to have contracted the new viral strain.

"The reported link to a wholesale fish and live animal market could indicate exposure to animals," WHO stated on Sunday.

"Pneumonia is common in winter," it added, saying the concentration of cases should be handled "prudently."

Additional thermal imaging systems have been put in place at Hong Kong International Airport to check the body temperature of inbound travelers from Wuhan since January 3, according to Radio Television Hong Kong.

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