A German man who contracted the novel strain of coronavirus was infected by a colleague visiting from China, officials said on Tuesday, in what appeared to be the first human-to-human transmission in Europe.
Other confirmed cases in Europe of the viral outbreak have so far involved patients who had recently been to China.
In this instance, the 33-year-old German attended a training session held by a visiting Chinese colleague on January 21 at the office of car parts supplier Webasto in Stockdorf, in Germany’s southern Bavaria region.
Dr. Andreas Zapf, head of the Bavarian State Office for Health and Food Safety, confirmed the first case of human transmission of novel coronavirus case in Germany.
He said that the patient got infected with the virus after attending a meeting in Starnberg which a Chinese woman also attended. At the time, the Chinese woman was not ill.
“He is (the patient infected with the coronavirus) 33 years old, an employee of a company in Starnberg, who last Tuesday, on the 21st of January, took part in a meeting in Starnberg. The person who led this training or at least who took part in the meeting, was Chinese (and got ill afterwards with the coronavirus),” Dr. Zapf said in a press briefing.
Zapf said the Chinese woman “started to feel sick on the flight home on January 23”.
“(The Chinese woman) then flew back home and felt sick and went to get medical care in China. There she was tested for coronavirus and was positive,” he said.
The German man tested positive for the virus on Monday evening after reporting flu-like symptoms.
He remains in hospital in an isolation ward, but Zapf said he “was doing well”.
A spokeswoman for the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s centre for disease prevention and control, told AFP the German case appeared to be the first instance of a “human-to-human transmission” outside Asia.
Vietnam and Japan have also each reported a patient testing positive for the new coronavirus without having travelled to China.
The Chinese woman working for Webasto immediately sought medical attention on her return to China.
She was confirmed to have caught the virus, which has spread rapidly in recent weeks after first emerging in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
The woman had recently visited her parents in the Wuhan region, Zapf said.
In a statement, the Webasto company said it had halted all business travel to and from China “for at least the next two weeks”.
Health officials are checking some 40 people that the two infected workers have been in contact with recently, including colleagues and family members.
The virus has so far killed 106 people and infected over 4,000 — the bulk of them in and around Wuhan.
Cases have also been reported in a string of other countries, including the United States, France, Australia and Japan.
© Agence France-Presse