Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Chinese patients showing symptoms of pneumonia in Thailand and Japan have tested positive for the same respiratory virus behind the outbreak in Wuhan, central China.
Japan confirmed its first "Chinese pneumonia" case on Thursday. Local health authorities are not ruling out the possibility of the disease passing through person-to-person contact, the Sankei Shimbun reported.
The Chinese national who tested positive for the new type of coronavirus has been identified as a man in his 30s, living in Kanagawa Prefecture near Tokyo.
The man had returned from a visit to Wuhan, where, according to local authorities, dozens of Chinese vendors at Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market were hospitalized after exhibiting severe respiratory problems.
Person-to-person infections are not being ruled out in Japan. The patient reportedly never visited the seafood market in the Chinese city, according to South Korean television network KBS' Tokyo correspondent on Thursday.
By Thursday there were 41 reported cases of the new coronavirus in China, and one case each in Japan and Thailand. One patient has reportedly died in China.
Last week, a 61-year-old Chinese woman with "Wuhan pneumonia" was confirmed in Thailand. She was taken to a Thai hospital immediately after arriving at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok on Jan. 8.
The World Health Organization has said the new strain of coronavirus is similar to the virus behind severe acute respiratory syndrome. SARS killed hundreds of people in Hong Kong and mainland China from 2002 to 2003.
Vietnam, which shares a border with China, may have stepped up monitoring of incoming travelers.
Vietnamese news service VN Express reported Thursday a 22-year-old man and a 3-year-old boy are undergoing testing for the new coronavirus. The Chinese nationals showed fever symptoms upon arriving at Da Nang Airport.
More Chinese travelers are expected to arrive at popular destinations in Asia, including in South Korea, during the Lunar New Year holidays. Jeju Island in the South is expecting 37,000 Chinese visitors over the holidays, according to News 1.