A man in Washington state has been infected with coronavirus, the deadly, mysterious respiratory infection spreading in China, marking the first case in the United States.
The patient, in his 30s, had recently traveled to Wuhan, China — the presumed origin of the virus — and returned to the U.S. on Jan. 15. After reading about the virus online he went to his doctor on Sunday and tested positive for coronavirus, Washington health officials said Tuesday in a media call.
The patient, who lives just outside of Seattle, “right now is characterized as very healthy,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control. He was transferred to Providence Medical Center in Everett, Wash. but is doing well, said Washington health official Dr. Scott Lindquist.
“[He is] currently hospitalized out of an abundance of caution and for observation,” Lindquist said.
The CDC and Washington health officials are now looking into anyone who may have come in contact with the patient over the last six days. He took multiple flights in his return to the U.S. before completing his trip at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
However, health officials said that they “believe the risk to the public is low.”
There have been around 300 confirmed cases of coronavirus across Asia and six deaths as of Tuesday.
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Chinese authorities initially said that the coronavirus could only spread from animals to humans, and they pinpointed a market in Wuhan as the likely source. However, people have now been infected hundreds of miles away from the Wuhan market, and officials said Monday that it can also spread from person to person.
“Now we can say it is certain that it is a human-to-human transmission phenomenon,” Dr. Zhong Nanshan, a scientist who is leading a government-appointed expert panel on the outbreak, said in an interview on state-run television, according to The New York Times.
The U.S. patient said that he did not visit any markets in Wuhan.
Coronaviruses is a term applied to a variety of viruses that include the common cold and more severe illnesses such as SARS, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, and MERS, Middle East respiratory syndrome.
The symptoms typically include respiratory problems, trouble breathing, fever and coughing.
The World Health Organization announced that they will have an emergency meeting on Wednesday to determine if the outbreak is a public health emergency.
The CDC said Monday that they will start health screenings at San Francisco International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and Los Angeles International Airport. During the media call on Tuesday, they said they will expand those screenings to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.