UK man linked to virus spread thanks doctors for recovery

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A man in protective clothing cleans the County Oak Medical Centre GP practice which has been temporarily closed "because of an urgent operational health and safety reason", following reports a member of staff there was one of those infected with coronavirus, in Brighton, England, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020. Britain has declared the new coronavirus that emerged from China a "serious and imminent threat to public health'' and announced new measures Monday to combat the spread of the disease. (Steve Parsons/PA via AP)

LONDON – A businessman from England who contracted the new virus from China and may have spread it through his wide travels thanked Britain's National Health Service after he recovered.

Steve Walsh issued a statement Tuesday after being the focus of intense media coverage once it became apparent that he may have unwittingly helped to spread the new coronavirus to Europe. Walsh had come into contact with the virus after a business trip to Singapore in January. He then went to a ski resort in the French Alps, potentially infecting other people before he was diagnosed with the virus and hospitalized.

“I would like to thank the NHS for their help and care,’’ Walsh said. “Whilst I have fully recovered, my thoughts are with others who have contracted coronavirus.’’

Five Britons who stayed with Walsh at a chalet in the Alps have been diagnosed with the virus, including a 9-year-old boy. Another man who stayed at the French ski resort was discovered infected after returning home on the Spanish island of Mallorca.

His case prompted French health authorities to test 61 other children and family members at the resort and temporarily close some schools there, but they all tested negative.

Walsh said as soon as he realized he had been exposed to a confirmed case of the virus, he spoke to his doctor and public health authorities.

“I was advised to attend an isolated room at the hospital, despite showing no symptoms, and subsequently self-isolated at home as instructed,” he said. “When the diagnosis was confirmed, I was sent to an isolation unit in hospital, where I remain, and, as a precaution, my family was also asked to isolate themselves.’’

The virus has infected more than 43,000 people globally and killed over 1,000, with the overwhelming majority of cases in China. It is unclear exactly how it is transmitted, but experts think it is spread mostly by droplets when people cough or sneeze. Health officials warn it can take up to 14 days for those who have been exposed to show symptoms.