Public health experts in Japan say a new coronavirus is unlikely to cause a pneumonia outbreak in the country, but that the elderly and people with chronic diseases could develop serious symptoms if infected.
The National Institute of Infectious Diseases on Friday held a media briefing on the virus believed to be the cause of pneumonia in China.
The head of the institute's Infectious Disease Surveillance Center, Motoi Suzuki, said human-to-human transmissions of the virus have occurred through close contact, but that it is unlikely to spread quickly.
Suzuki said the virus is believed to have a weaker pathogenic nature than the SARS coronavirus that killed nearly 800 people, mostly in Asia, in 2003.
But he said public health authorities need to monitor how the infection will spread and how the virus changes its nature.
In the Chinese city of Wuhan, 41 cases of the pneumonia likely caused by the virus have been confirmed since December. Two patients have died.
A Chinese man living in Japan tested positive for the virus after returning from Wuhan.
Suzuki said the institute is using virus samples from the man to develop an accurate test method to shorten the time required for obtaining the results from the current two days.