Pneumonia of Unknown Etiology in Wuhan, China: Potential for International Spread Via Commercial Air Travel (2020/01/14)

On December 30, 2019, a report of a cluster of pneumonia of unknown etiology was published
on ProMED-mail, possibly related to contact with a seafood market in Wuhan, China.
1 Hospitals
in the region held an emergency symposium, and support from federal agencies is reportedly
helping to determine the source of infection and causative organism. The seafood market has
since been closed, but purportedly sold a variety of live animal species. On January 5, 2019, the
World Health Organization (WHO) published a document outlining their request for more
information from Chinese public health authorities, and detailed 44 patients had “pneumonia of
unknown etiology”, with 121 close contacts under surveillance (
january-2020-pneumonia-of-unkown-cause-china/en/). The WHO reported that 11 patients were
severely ill, and many affected individuals had contact with the Huanan Seafood market. Some
patients were reported to have fever, dyspnea, and pulmonary infiltrates on chest radiography. At
the time of publication, limited information has been produced directly by Chinese public health
authorities, however media reports documenting interviews with such authorities have stated that
the etiology is not yet identified, that there are now 59 affected patients, and that Severe Acute
Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), avian
influenza, and several other common respiratory pathogens have been ruled out
( On January 8, 2019, news
outlets and ProMED-mail reported that genetic sequencing demonstrated a novel coronavirus as
the potential causative organism.
2 Given the recent history of zoonotic transmission of a
coronavirus emerging from a live-animal market in China in 2002, and the potential for novel
pathogens to rapidly spread globally via commercial air travel,
3,4 we sought to evaluate
international travel patterns from Wuhan, China in order to anticipate patterns of disease
dispersion should this outbreak evolve.

Author: saac I Bogoch, Alexander Watts, Andrea Thomas-Bachli,et al.