A 39-year-old Hong Kong man died on Tuesday morning in hospital, making him the first casualty of the Wuhan virus in the former British territory.
The Hong Kong man had visited Wuhan two weeks ago.
The virus has so far spread to more than 20 countries, prompting the World health Organization to declare a global health emergency, several governments to institute travel restrictions and airlines to suspend flights to and from China.
Hong Kong has been particularly on edge over the virus as it has revived memories of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2002-03, which killed nearly 300 people in the financial hub and 349 people in the mainland.
The man’s 72-year-old mother was confirmed to be infected with the Wuhan coronavirus on Saturday after she was sent to Lei Yue Mun Park and Holiday Village for quarantine. The woman had not traveled overseas in the short term.
It was likely to be a human-to-human transmission case, according to the Center for Health Protection.
The man, who suffered from a history of chronic diseases, and his mother, wife, daughter, son and domestic worker were living together in an apartment in block 1, phase 11, Whampoa Garden. He went to visit relatives in Wuhan by Express Rail Link on G306 at 9:48am on January 21.
After the Wuhan government shut down its external train and flight transport at 10am on January 23, the man took the Express Rail Link in Changsha South railway station in Hunan province on G79 at 3:41pm on the same day. It took about four hours to travel from Wuhan to Changsha by car.
On January 29, the man suffered from muscle soreness. On January 31, he had a fever and was admitted to Queen Elizabeth Hospital for isolation. He was identified as infected on the same day.
The man’s mother, wife, daughter, son and domestic worker did not show any symptoms at that time. They were sent to be quarantined on February 1. The mother developed a cough and fever on the same day and was sent to Queen Elizabeth Hospital and then to Princess Margaret Hospital.
The man said he had not been to any medical institution, wet market or seafood market. He also said he had not touched any wild animals.
A property management firm in Whampoa Garden used bleach to sterilize the residential building the man was living in, as well as the public area in the estate.
The man died in Princess Margaret Hospital on Tuesday morning, the fifth day after he was admitted to hospital. The Health Department will disclose more information about the case in the afternoon.
Officials said the man also had diabetes, but had been stable until his condition suddenly deteriorated. They said the precise cause of death was unclear and would be passed to the coroner.
So far the only other reported fatality outside of the Chinese mainland has been in the Philippines.
Hong Kong now has 17 confirmed infections, the majority of people who were infected in mainland China.
But four cases are suspected to be local transmissions, including two people confirmed on Tuesday afternoon who have no history of recent travel to the mainland.
Chuang Shuk-kwan, from Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection, said the local transmissions were a cause for concern as it could suggest the city’s outbreak was becoming self-sustaining.
“We can’t rule out the possibility that there will be massive transmission in the near future. So the next 14 days are very critical,” he told reporters.