Chinese authorities on Monday confirmed that a case of cholera had occurred in the central city of Wuhan where the outbreak of COVID-19 began before spreading globally. State media acknowledged that the case has sparked public worries in a society still coping with the COVID outbreak.
China’s official media Xinhua published the news on the front page of its website Monday evening local time, citing a public announcement issued by Wuchang district government’s center for disease control. Wuchang is a district with a little more than one million residents in the city of Wuhan and is home to Wuhan University where the case was reported.
The news item is no longer on Xinhua’s front page as of Tuesday morning local time, nor can it be found in the Local News section of the website, a category it fell under previously.
Wuhan University announced on Monday that a graduate student with gastro disease history was admitted at the university’s hospital on July 8 after experiencing fever, vomiting and diarrhea. The student has since been transferred twice, each time to a higher-level hospital, and is currently in quarantine, the university said.
The dormitory where the student stayed, as well as the lab where the student worked, had both been locked down beginning the evening of July 9, the university said. Three close contacts, including two roommates, and a third person who had dined with the student prior to the student’s hospitalization, have been quarantined.
Between the evening of July 9 and early morning the next day, 254 students who lived in the same dormitory building plus three dormitory building managers and 15 vendors have been tested. Potentially affected areas are temporarily locked down, relevant personnel have been quarantined “according to regulation” and have been given preventive medicine, the university said.
The university has also taken “environmental” samples of public areas of the dormitory building, dormitory rooms, bathrooms, waste disposal channels, and the building where the student worked. The areas have also been disinfected.
Staff at the hospitals who came into contact with the student have been tested.
The university reported that its hospital has treated 19 additional cases of diarrhea between July 1 and 10, and that tests for cholera were being performed.
The university said on Monday that up until July 10 evening local time, no other O1 or O138 strain, which was confirmed in the student, has been detected among 264 closely monitored individuals.
O1 and O138 are the only two strains of the cholera bacteria that cause outbreaks, according to the World Health Organization.
Cholera is only the second infectious disease classified by the Chinese government as Type A infectious disease, the other is plague. COVID-19, AIDS, Rabies, bird flu and malaria are among dozens classified as Type B, a less severe category.
The English-language Global Times, part of China’s state media, reported the Wuhan University case on Monday. The article quoted the university’s report that the patient was symptom-free after being treated and that the more than 200 students who lived in the same dormitory building all tested negative.
The report acknowledged that “While COVID-19 outbreaks are not over in China and the flu has hit provinces in South China, the newly found cholera case has sparked public worries [in China].” The same report also quoted a director at Wuhan University saying, “There’s no need for panic.”
Yang Zhanqiu, deputy director of the pathogen biology department at the university, was quoted by Global Times as saying that “with largely improved sanitary conditions and medical treatment, cholera in China has been under control since 2000 and only sporadic cases have been reported in recent years.”
According to the World Health Organization, cholera is an acute diarrheal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with cholera bacteria. WHO describes cholera as “an extremely virulent disease that can cause severe acute watery diarrhea.”
According to the WHO, it takes between 12 hours and 5 days for a person to show symptoms after ingesting contaminated food or water. Cholera affects both children and adults and can kill within hours if untreated.
Most people infected with cholera bacteria do not develop any symptoms, according to WHO, although the bacteria are present in their feces for 1-10 days after infection and have the potential to affect other people.