A Chinese tourist who was admitted to hospital for tests after showing symptoms was confirmed to have the deadly new strain of coronavirus that has so far killed more than a hundred people in China.
Infectious diseases specialist Markku Broas from Lapland Central Hospital said that the tourist left Wuhan province five days ago. The province, which is the epicentre of the current outbreak, was shut down soon afterwards by Chinese authorities trying to stop the spread of the disease.
The tourist is said to be a female aged 32 and in relatively good health. She sought medical attention in Ivalo when symptoms first appeared. Samples were taken after a transfer to Lapland Central Hospital in Rovaniemi. Tests conducted in Helsinki confirmed the infection.
“It was to be expected that cases brought by visitors could also come to light in Finland. However the risk of the disease spreading in Finland is still very small, so there is no need for concern,” said THL director Mika Salminen.
So far officials estimate that about 15 people may have been exposed to infection. Health authorities will monitor persons exposed to the risk of infection for 14 days, in accordance with World Health Organization recommendations.
Lapland health officials said that the woman diagnosed with the virus had been in the Saariselkä area of northern Finland and began to exhibit symptoms last Sunday.
She is running a temperature but does not need intensive care, they noted. The patient will be double-tested to be sure that she is disease-free before she is released from quarantine.
Officials sought to calm fears by noting that the total number of coronavirus cases in Europe is now seven and that the European Union is well positioned to manage the disease.
The virus has spread to more than 16 countries so far, with more than 130 people dead and nearly 6,000 confirmed cases in China up to Wednesday afternoon.
Symptoms are very similar to ordinary colds and flu, and patients are advised to take extra precautions when these symptoms appear.
The virus can be spread before symptoms appear, and some cases are very mild, so it is likely people have unwittingly carried the virus.