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Japan must prepare for new virus infections, but 'no need to be that concerned': expert

A press conference on a new coronavirus case, in which a Japanese tour bus driver who has never been to the Chinese city of Wuhan was infected, is held by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare on Jan. 28, 2020. (Mainichi/Kaho Kitayama)

TOKYO -- A medical expert here has warned that Japan must be cautious of the spread of the new coronavirus inside the country after the first domestic case of human-to-human transmission was confirmed on Jan. 28, but added that people should not be excessively concerned.

A Japanese tour bus driver who has never been to the coronavirus outbreak epicenter of Wuhan, in China's central Hubei province, appears to have contracted the disease from a member of a Chinese tour group from the city.

Tokyo Medical University Hospital professor Atsuo Hamada, however, says secondary transmission -- where an infected person transmits a disease to another person -- was "expected to happen," as such cases have been confirmed in China and Vietnam.

"There's no need to be that concerned," stated Hamada, an expert in foreign contagious diseases.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has also stressed that "it's not as if people in Japan are becoming infected one after another."

But there are many mild cases of the new coronavirus, which makes it difficult to tell it apart from common colds. Professor Hamada added, "We must exercise caution to prevent tertiary and quaternary infections."

People who come into frequent contact with visitors from China are encouraged to visit a medical institution as early as possible if they develop a fever. In addition, urgent countermeasures, such as development of rapid diagnostic test kits and establishment of outpatient departments to treat those infected with the new virus, is required for an early medical treatment.

(Japanese original by Go Kumagai, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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