Japan confirms first death of person infected with coronavirus

Japan's Health Ministry says a woman in her 80s infected with the new coronavirus has died. She is the first known victim of the virus in Japan. Ministry officials say she was living in Kanagawa Prefecture, neighboring Tokyo.

Officials say the woman fell ill on January 22nd and was diagnosed with pneumonia ten days later. They say her condition worsened on Wednesday and she died early Thursday. Tests later that day revealed that she had been infected with the coronavirus. Authorities say she had not been overseas recently.

The woman's son-in-law is a taxi driver living in Tokyo. He was one of three others confirmed to be infected on Thursday. Officials say he began complaining of a fever on January 29th and tested positive on Thursday. They say he has not reported to work and has been staying at home since developing symptoms.

The officials quote the man as saying he had not visited the Chinese provinces of Hubei and Zhejiang in the two weeks before he exhibited symptoms.

A Japanese doctor in his 50s who lives in Wakayama Prefecture, western Japan, has tested positive for the new coronavirus. The doctor developed symptoms, including fever and fatigue, on January 31. He was admitted to hospital on Monday with symptoms of pneumonia. He tested positive on Thursday.

Wakayama prefectural officials say the surgeon was working his usual shifts from February 3rd through 5th, but took a leave of absence from February 6th to recover at home.

The virus has also been detected in a man in his 70s who had been temporarily admitted to the hospital where the surgeon worked.

Prefectural officials say it is unlikely he contracted the virus in the hospital. They say he was admitted on February 6th after showing symptoms of pneumonia following a visit to another medical institution in the prefecture. The man was transferred to a different hospital on Thursday. He is reportedly in serious condition and receiving treatment.

The hospital has stopped accepting new patients and will ask all inpatients to undergo tests.

A surgeon who worked at the Saiseikai Arida Hospital in Wakayama Prefecture has been infected with the new coronavirus.

Some experts say the infection phase has changed in Japan and infections could now occur sporadically. But they also call on people not to panic. Atsuo Hamada, a professor at Tokyo Medical University Hospital, says the virus is infectious but the fatality rate outside China's mainland is no higher than for seasonal influenza.

Hamada says the most effective countermeasure people can take is to wash their hands and avoid crowded areas. He says that is especially important for the elderly and those with chronic diseases.

Tokyo Medical University Hospital professor Atsuo Hamada

The Japanese government is spending US$136 million to fight the outbreak. That includes funding to develop a vaccine and treat illnesses caused by the virus.

The emergency plan was approved on Thursday at a taskforce meeting attended by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his full Cabinet.

It will increase the capacity of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases to test samples, and will help prefectures provide outpatient services for people suspected of being infected.

The government also plans to work with the private sector to develop test kits, anti-virus drugs and vaccines.


The Japan National Tourism Organization is urging tourists who think they might have the new coronavirus to see a doctor as soon as possible.

The organization has a free, 24-hour hotline in English, Chinese and Korean offering details of clinics and hospitals.

The number for people in Japan is 050-3816-2787.
For people overseas it is +81-50-3816-2787.