BERLIN -- Four people who work at supplier Webasto in southern Germany have been infected with the coronavirus, and one of them contracted it from a colleague visiting their workplace in China, officials said.
In one of the first cases of person-to-person transmission outside China, a 33-year-old man apparently contracted the virus on Jan. 21 during a training session with a Chinese colleague, Bavaria's health ministry said.
"A total of around 40 employees at the company have been identified as potential close contacts. As a precaution, the people concerned are to be tested on Wednesday," Bavaria's Health Minister Melanie Huml said in a statement.
Webasto said in a statement that it is closing its headquarters in Stockdorf, Bavaria, until Sunday due to the virus outbreak. Employees have been offered the choice of working from home and the company has suspended employee travel from its headquarters to national and international locations until Sunday. For China the travel suspension remains two weeks.
An employee at the supplier's headquarters had become infected after attending a training session hosted by the Chinese colleague earlier his month. The Chinese employee from Shanghai tested positive for the virus upon returning to China.
The three other Stockdorf employees infected worked closely with their German colleague, health officials said. All four German patients are being monitored in an isolation unit in Munich.
The cases raise concerns about the spread of the flu-like virus that broke out in the central Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of last year and has killed 106 people and infected more than 2,800 people. It spreads in droplets from coughs and sneezes and has an incubation period of up to 14 days.
Confirmation of any sustained human-to-human spread of the virus outside of China, as well as any documented deaths, would bolster the case for reconvening the World Health Organization's Emergency Committee to consider again whether to declare a public health emergency of international concern.
The independent panel last week twice declined to declare an international emergency.
Outside of China there have now been 45 confirmed cases in 13 countries, with no deaths so far, the WHO's spokesman Christian Lindmeier told a briefing in Geneva on Tuesday.
The WHO said a case in Vietnam involved human-to-human transmission outside China and a Japanese official has said there was a suspected case of human-to-human transmission there too.
Andreas Zapf, president of Bavaria's office for health and food safety, said on Tuesday the 33-year-old man lives in the district of Landsberg about 31 miles west of Munich and had come into contact with a Chinese colleague on Jan. 21.
Zapf said the Chinese woman was from Shanghai but her parents, who are from the Wuhan region, had visited her a few days earlier.
He added that she had arrived in Germany on Jan. 19, appearing not to have any symptoms, but began to feel ill on her flight home on Jan. 23. She sought medical treatment after landing and tested positive for coronavirus.
When that information was relayed back to the German company, a male employee said he felt like he had flu over the weekend and was on Monday advised to get medical treatment.
The head doctor at the clinic where the man is being treated told a news conference the patient was awake and responsive, and he did not think the man's life was at risk.
Health Minister Jens Spahn said the risk to people's health in Germany from the coronavirus remained low.
Automotive News Europe contributed to this report.