Health authorities in Australia have confirmed a man in the state of Queensland who was screened for the Wuhan coronavirus does not have the deadly illness.
The man was quarantined earlier this month when he fell ill after returning to Brisbane from visiting family in Wuhan, China, where the virus broke out in December.
Queensland Health on Wednesday afternoon confirmed tests for the 2019-nCov virus were negative.
Nevertheless, health screenings will be ramped up for passengers arriving into Sydney on direct flights from the epicentre of the outbreak, and at other Australian airports.
Cases have also been confirmed in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand.
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy says it’s possible the virus will reach Australia, but insists the nation is equipped.
“It’s quite possible we will get a case, but I think we are well prepared to respond,” Professor Murphy told Prime Minister Scott Morrison during a briefing at the Department of Health’s National Incident Room in Canberra.
Prof. Murphy said Australia is ready to respond and isolate any travellers who are suspected of carrying the virus.
Biosecurity measures have been ramped up for flights arriving into Australia from China and Wuhan in particular.
The sprawling capital of central China’s Hubei province is the epicentre of the coronavirus which is thought to have started in animals before spreading to humans.
The three flights Sydney receives from Wuhan each week will be closely monitored, starting on Thursday when biosecurity staff at Sydney Airport will assess any arrivals who feel unwell.
The crack team will include four NSW Health doctors and nurses experienced in public health and infection control alongside virology experts from Westmead Hospital and elsewhere.
The team will wear masks and gloves when examining anyone with symptoms, NSW Health protection executive director Jeremy McAnulty told reporters in Sydney.
“If it looks like they may have an infection … we can arrange for testing and management of that person right away,” Dr. McAnulty said.
Experts at Westmead Hospital can rapidly diagnose patients although if someone is very unwell they could be taken to a hospital closer to the airport.
Dr. McAnulty says identifying potential carriers at the airport is “not foolproof by any means” because people who’ve been exposed to the virus may not display symptoms for days.
Australia’s foreign affairs department says anyone travelling to Wuhan should “exercise a high degree of caution” while in the city.