By Michelle Martin
BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany has declared its first confirmed case of the coronavirus after a 33-year-old man contracted it from a colleague visiting his workplace from Shanghai, in one of the first cases of person-to-person transmission outside China.
The case raises concerns about the spread of the flu-like virus that broke out in the central Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of last year and has killed 106 people and infected more than 2,800 people.
It spreads in droplets from coughs and sneezes and has an incubation period of 1-14 days.
Bavaria’s health ministry said late on Monday that a man in the southern German state was suffering from the virus and was in “good condition” while isolated under medical observation.
German car parts supplier Webasto [WEBA.UL] on Tuesday said an employee at its headquarters in Stockdorf, Bavaria, had become infected following the visit of an employee from China.
A day earlier it said an employee from Shanghai tested positive for the virus upon returning to China.
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 Organization’s Emergency Committee to consider again whether to declare a public health emergency of international concern.
The independent panel last week twice declined to declare an international emergency.
In response to the episode, Germany plans to require travelers arriving from China to provide airlines with contact details, including where they are staying while in the country, Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Tuesday.
The step will ensure the authorities can get in touch with people who may have come into contact with infected people. Airlines will need to keep the details for 30 days, he said.
Outside of China there have now been 45 confirmed cases in 13 countries, with no deaths so far, the WHO’s spokesman Christian Lindmeier told a briefing in Geneva on Tuesday.
The WHO said a case in Vietnam involved human-to-human transmission outside China and a Japanese official has said there was a suspected case of human-to-human transmission there too.
Andreas Zapf, president of Bavaria’s office for health and food safety, said on Tuesday the person infected was 33 years old, lived in the district of Landsberg about 50 kilometers (31 miles) west of Munich and had come into contact with a Chinese woman on Jan 21.
Zapf said the Chinese woman was from Shanghai but her parents, who are from the Wuhan region, had visited her a few days earlier.
He added that she had arrived in Germany on Jan. 19, appearing not to have any symptoms, but began to feel ill on her flight home on Jan. 23. She sought medical treatment after landing and tested positive for coronavirus.
When that information was relayed back to the German company, a male employee said he felt like he had flu over the weekend and was on Monday advised to get medical treatment.
The head doctor at the clinic where the man is being treated told a news conference the patient was awake and responsive and he did not think the man’s life was at risk.
Martin Hoch, the head of an infectiology taskforce, said the man had been in close contact with at least 40 colleagues and family members, adding that number could rise.
Bavaria’s health ministry said people who had been in contact with the man had been informed of possible symptoms, hygiene measures and transmission channels.
Germany’s Spahn said the risk to people’s health in Germany from the coronavirus remained low.
(Reporting by Michelle Martin in Berlin; Additional reporting by Madeline Chambers in Berlin, Alexander Huebner in Munich, Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru and Kenneth Maxwell in Tokyo; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)