One of China’s top medical experts says the coronavirus is behaving differently in the country’s northeast, where new clusters of the disease have emerged in recent weeks.
Patients who have fallen ill with the virus in the country’s Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces are experiencing different symptoms and are taking longer to recover, according to Qiu Haibo, a critical care doctor who is part of China’s National Health Commission (NHC).
In a televised interview with state broadcaster CCTV this week, Dr Qiu said the new patients rarely had a fever, but still suffered from fatigue and a sore throat.
They also had a longer incubation period – the time between when you contract the virus and start to show symptoms – and were carrying the disease for longer.
Patients in Wuhan, where the virus first emerged last year, normally tested negative for the virus within one or two weeks of developing symptoms, he said, but the recovery period for those in the northeast was longer.
Dr Qiu noted, however, that there had been far fewer severe cases of the virus in Heilongjiang and Jilin.
While patients were still suffering lung damage, doctors were not seeing major damage to other organs, such as the kidneys and the heart, he said.
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China reported just five new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, bringing the country’s total number of infections to 82,965, but the northeastern clusters have stoked fears of a second wave.
Mr Qiu said he believed most of the cases in Heilongjiang and Jilin had been imported from overseas.
Both provinces share a border with Russia, which has now confirmed more than 308,000 infections – the second highest number of cases in the world.
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Last week, President Xi Jinping said containment measures should be stepped up in Jilin, Heilongjiang and Wuhan “to forestall resurgence of infections”.
The cities of Jilin and Shulan, both in Jilin province, were placed in lockdown, with strict controls on transport, schools closed and mass gatherings banned.
Jilin’s vice mayor warned the situation was “extremely severe and complicated” and there was “major risk of further spread”.
Residents in Shulan have also been told to register their details with authorities and to undergo testing if they have travelled to Russia this year, according to China’s Global Times newspaper.
– with wires