Beijing, Oct 19 (efe-epa).- China found a live sample of the novel coronavirus in packages of imported frozen cod for the first time Monday in the eastern port of Qingdao, a scene of the latest outbreak in the country.
The China Center for Disease Prevention and Control said it is the first time outside laboratory conditions that the virus has been confirmed to survive for long periods of time outside the packaging of refrigerated transport vehicles.
This finding could mean the virus uses refrigerated products as carriers, which would allow its spread across borders and long distances, according to state newspaper Global Times.
“Surviving viruses on the surface of products could infect anyone who comes into contact with them without using protection,” putting workers in the sector in a particularly risky situation, Chinese health authorities said.
However, they assured no coronavirus infections have been detected so far through food intake, which is why they considered the risk of infection for the general public to be “very low.”
The source did not specify where the infected packaging came from.
Quoted by Global Times, the deputy director of the Department of Pathogen Biology at Wuhan University, Yang Zhanqiu, said this discovery “helps advance research on the survival capacity of the virus, on its vital structure and – most importantly – its origins.”
According to Yang, if the genetic sequence of the virus detected in cod packages matches that found in humans, it could raise the possibility that it originates from aquatic creatures, and not bats or pangolins.
Chinese health authorities said last week that the origin of the Oct. 11 outbreak in Qingdao city, in the country’s east, occurred when two stevedores from the port contracted the virus after coming into contact with products containing virus remains.
These two positives, diagnosed on Sep. 24, received treatment at the Qingdao Pectoral Ailments Hospital, where the recent outbreak was found weeks later.
Official investigations concluded that a bad disinfection of the computerized axial tomography (CT) apparatus of that hospital, after its use by an infected person, led to the spread of the virus in the center, and that it resulted in the contagion of 13 people.
To stop the outbreak, Qingdao launched an analysis campaign to its entire population that concluded last Friday, and in five days it carried out almost 11 million nucleic acid tests, without finding more positive than the 13 previously announced.
The last part of the National Health Commission of China, published Monday, said there are 249 active infected people in the country, of which four are in serious condition. EFE-EPA