The first case of a novel coronavirus at the center of an ongoing outbreak that began in Wuhan, China, has been identified in the United States, health officials confirmed.
“During our briefing last Friday, I foreshadowed that we could see a novel coronavirus infection in the United States, and today, I’m here with state health officials from Washington to announce that we have confirmed the first case of coronavirus in the U.S.,” Nancy Messonnier, MD, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, said during a telebriefing today.
According to CDC officials, a male U.S. citizen in his 30s from Snohomish County, Washington, was identified as being infected with the novel strain of coronavirus. The man returned from a trip to China before the start of precautionary health screenings at three airports in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York and was not on a direct flight from Wuhan, nor did he fly through one of those airports.
Officials reported that the man was aware of the outbreak and reported his symptoms once they began. He was quickly transported to Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Washington, where he has been placed under monitoring following proper infectious disease precautions. CDC and local health officials are working to find and screen all of his contacts.
According to Washington state officials, the man did not visit the animal market in Wuhan where the outbreak is believed to have originated, nor did he come into contact with anyone identified as infected.
Health authorities in China had confirmed 319 cases of the virus as of Tuesday night, including six deaths, according to the People’s Daily newspaper. Cases also have been reported in Thailand, Japan and South Korea, and officials have confirmed that the virus can be spread from person-to-person.
“We shouldn’t be surprised by this coronavirus’ spillover from animals to humans. It’s microbes doing what microbes do,” Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, MPH, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told Healio. “Now we have the real challenge of stopping human-to-human transmission of the virus in what will likely be a number of countries. Another sobering moment for public health.”
Precautions, including health screenings at Los Angeles International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, and JFK airport in New York are ongoing, and additional screenings have begun at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Chicago O’Hare International Airport.
According to the CDC, more than 1,200 people have been screened at the airports, but none have been identified as infected or hospitalized as a precaution. The CDC said the risk to the general public is “low.” – by Caitlyn Stulpin
Disclosures: Messonnier and Osterholm report no relevant financial disclosures.