(EDITOR'S NOTE: This story, published on Jan. 21, 2020, is updated to clarify that the boy tested positive for a non-specific strain of coronavirus. Three days later, on Jan. 24, test results from Australia showed he was negative from the new coronavirus strain, which originated in Wuhan, China and the world is now working to contain.)
MANILA (3rd UPDATE) -- A child from China tested positive for "non-specific" coronavirus, Filipino health authorities said Tuesday, adding further checks were needed if it was from a fast-spreading strain that started in the mainland city of Wuhan.
The 5-year-old from Wuhan arrived in Cebu City last Jan. 12 "to make arrangements to study English," said Dr. Ferchito Avelino, director of the DOH Epidemiology Bureau. The child was confined at a hospital the same day, he added.
Samples from the boy, who experienced fever, throat irritation and cough, tested negative for MERS-COV and SARS, but tested positive for "non-specific pancoronavirus," Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told reporters.
Specimen from the was also sent to specialists in Australia to identify which coronavirus strain he carried, said Duque. (The boy tested negative for the Wuhan coronavirus, the DOH reported 3 days after this report was published -- Ed).
Pancoronavirus is a test that detects any coronavirus, but cannot identify the particular strain, DOH Undersecretary Eric Domingo said in a text message to ABS-CBN News.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), according to the World Health Organization.
A new strain of coronavirus was recently discovered in Wuhan and has infected 218 people.
The child "is still experiencing cough but is currently stable," he added.
The DOH is also monitoring 3 other individuals from China who had flu-like symptoms when they landed at the Kalibo airport in Aklan, he said.
The trio had not no history of travel to Wuhan or contact with any patient of the new coronavirus or sick animals, said Duque.
Coronaviruses were previously thought to be transmitted between animals and people. However, the new China virus is contagious among humans, its health officials confirmed.
Common symptoms of coronavirus infection include cough, fever, shortness of breath and breathing difficulty. In severe cases, it can cause pneumonia, acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death, said Duque.
The public should wash their hands frequently, avoid contact with wild animals and people with flu-like symptoms, and cover the mouth or nose when coughing and sneezing, he said.
CHINA VIRUS SPREADING
Some experts say the new China strain may not be as deadly as SARS, which killed nearly 800 people worldwide during a 2002 to 2003 outbreak that also originated from China.
Little is known about the new virus, including its origin.
National and local health authorities in China have also reported 21 patients outside of Wuhan, including 5 in Beijing and 2 in Shanghai, marking the first instances of the virus spreading to other parts of the country.
South Korea on Jan. 20 reported a new case of the virus involving a Chinese traveler from Wuhan.
Thailand has reported 2 confirmed cases of the virus, both of whom were Chinese tourists from Wuhan.
Japan also confirmed one case of a Japanese citizen who visited Wuhan. -- With a report from Reuters