It has been just three days since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first U.S. case of the new coronavirus in Washington, but experts have already confirmed a second case. According to NBC Chicago, a Chicago woman in her 60s — returning from a visit to Wuhan, China, on Jan. 13 —became symptomatic upon her arrival and tested positive for coronavirus in the hospital.
Experts say that more cases are likely to be confirmed in the coming days, with the CDC revealing Friday that 63 patients in 22 states are currently “under investigation” for the coronavirus. One of the patients is reportedly a college student at Texas A&M, who is being isolated at home while doctors perform testing.
The novel coronavirus — which two individuals in America and more than 800 people in China are battling — has been traced to the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, which is known for selling wild animals. Much like other coronaviruses, the Wuhan strain was likely spread from the animals to humans, where the highly contagious illness quickly spread. Experts say that it causes an upper respiratory infection and pneumonia, which can range from moderate to severe. Thus far, 26 people have died.
Prompted by the seriousness of the outbreak, Beijing officials announced Thursday night that the Lunar New Year celebrations, which typically draw millions to China, will not move forward. Chinese officials have also restricted travel to Wuhan, as well as 13 other cities, impacting over 40 million people. Shanghai Disneyland has also temporarily been closed, as have thousands of movie theaters.
While the new developments may be concerning to Americans who remember earlier coronavirus outbreaks such as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), Waleed Javaid, MD, an epidemiologist and director of infection prevention and control at Mount Sinai says that it’s not time to panic. “Seeing a case in the U.S. was expected because people are testing and ... getting more and more aware,” Javaid tells Yahoo Lifestyle in a video interview. “In my opinion, we might actually see even more cases in the U.S. because hospitals, physicians and the health departments are aggressively monitoring the situation.”
Javaid says that wearing masks while traveling can help, but that the best way to stay safe is to focus on good hygiene. “It’s spread by human-human interactions, sneezing, coughing, shaking hands with somebody who is ill,” Javaid tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “If masks are used properly they can help with prevention but the most basic to help in prevention is washing hands. Washing our hands regularly and frequently is very helpful. Humans by nature touch their faces a lot more than what we realize and that’s how we can get the transmission of infection to us.”
As of now, Javaid says that Americans remain at low risk of Wuhan coronavirus — much lower than other infections currently spreading in the U.S. “The important thing right now is to also consider influenza because it is circulating,” says Javaid. “Influenza is probably far more likely than having any other illness. Protecting ourselves, getting vaccinated is essential.”
In a statement Friday morning, the CDC says "it is likely there will be more cases reported in the U.S. in the coming days and weeks" but that the "immediate risk" to the American public remains low.
For latest updates on the coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control.
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