China coronavirus: British tourist believed to have contracted virus as infection cases increase

Chiara Giordano
Medical staff carry a patient into Jinyintan hospital, where patients infected with a new strain of coronavirus identified as the cause of the Wuhan pneumonia outbreak are being treated, in Wuhan, China, 18 January 2020: EPA

A British tourist is feared to have contracted a deadly new flu-like virus as the number of cases soar in China.

Ashley Shorley, 32, was rushed to hospital in Phuket after falling ill while visiting the island of Koh Phi Phi in Thailand.

Doctors in Phuket believe Mr Shorley’s symptoms to be consistent with the Chinese coronavirus, making him its first Western victim, according to The Sun.

Surgeons reportedly had to drain two kilograms of fluid from the backpacker’s collapsed lungs after they were infected by a pneumonia-style virus.

His parents, Chris and Julie Shorley, from Thornton, in Lancashire, flew to Thailand to be at his bedside after he fell ill on 27 December – just one week into his travels.

Mr Shorley’s father told The Sun he was “two days away from death” and would be dead “if he wasn’t so fit”.

There are now more than 200 known cases worldwide and three deaths have been linked to the virus.

In the central China city of Wuhan, where the virus first emerged, 136 new cases were found over the weekend, bringing the total to 198, including three deaths.

According to the local health commission, 170 people are still being treated in hospital, while 25 have been cured.

The outbreak has also spread to more cities including the capital Beijing, where two cases were recorded, and the southern city of Shenzhen, where there is so far one confirmed case.

Outside China, two cases have been reported in Thailand and one in Japan, all involving people from Wuhan or who recently visited the city.

A quarantine officer at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, South Korea, uses an electronic thermometer to check the temperature of passengers arriving by plane from Wuhan, China, 20 January, 2020. (EPA/Yonhap)

Other countries have been put on alert as millions of Chinese tourists prepare to travel during the Lunar New Year holiday, which begins later this week.

Chinese president Xi Jinping said the country would “resolutely curb” the spread of the outbreak, according to state TV, adding: “People’s lives and health should be given top priority.”

The new virus belongs to the same family of coronaviruses that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars), which killed nearly 800 people globally during a 2002/03 outbreak, which also started in China.

Some experts say the new virus may not be as deadly as Sars, but there is still little known about it including its origin and how easily it can be transmitted between humans.

Additional reporting by agencies.