Advertisement

Coronavirus sickens residents on different floors of Hong Kong apartment

Coronavirus outbreak: Hong Kong residents evacuated from residential block where two virus patients live
WATCH: Hong Kong residents evacuated from residential block where two virus patients live

The diagnosis of four people living in a single Hong Kong apartment block who were sickened by a new virus is prompting worried comparisons with the deadly SARS pandemic of 17 years ago.

Medical workers in full protective suits descended upon the Hong Mei House in Tsing Yi district on Tuesday, swiftly evacuating more than 100 people in 34 households after the four were found infected with the new pathogen from the same family of coronaviruses as SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Public health systems start feeling strain on coronavirus treatment, resources

Health officials called it a precautionary measure after a 62-year-old woman diagnosed with the virus Tuesday was found living 10 floors directly below a man who was earlier confirmed with the virus. The woman’s son and daughter-in-law who live with her were among seven new cases reported Thursday, raising the city’s total tally to 49.

Story continues below advertisement

As in 2003, officials suspect the building’s plumbing may be to blame.

Coronavirus outbreak: Death toll surpasses SARS as millions in China set to return to work
Coronavirus outbreak: Death toll surpasses SARS as millions in China set to return to work

The 34 households evacuated live vertically above or below the woman and share the same sewage system. A modified toilet drainage pipe in her unit may have helped spread the virus and officials are checking if any other units have made such alternations while they disinfect the building.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

Authorities sought to assuage fears of an epidemic, dismissing similarities to the SARS community outbreak at the Amoy Gardens housing estate in 2003. More than 300 people were infected and 42 people died at the time after a defective sewage pipe at the apartment block was believed to have caused the vertical spread of the SARS virus.

A background on the coronavirus and its symptoms
A background on the coronavirus and its symptoms

While some residents could be seen moving out with their luggage, others who spoke to The Associated Press said they weren’t overly worried as long as they maintained good personal hygiene, and that they preferred to stay put rather than risk infection somewhere else.

Story continues below advertisement

Most of Hong Kong’s 7.4 million people live in such apartments rising dozens of floors above the crowded city.