As the deadly coronavirus continues to sweep through China and spread into the rest of the world, the U.S. State Department is organizing an evacuation from the city where the outbreak began as airlines continue to take precautions over fears of possibly spreading disease.
The virus, which started in the city of Wuhan, just over 500 miles west of Shanghai, has killed at least 80 people in China so far, The New York Times reported. In China, there have been 2,744 confirmed cases of the disease while the mayor of Wuhan has said about 3,000 patients in the city are being treated for the virus. Cases of the coronavirus have been recorded in countries around the world, including the U.S.
Five stateside cases have been confirmed in Chicago, Washington, California and Arizona, according to The Associated Press.
Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) declined to designate the outbreak as a global emergency. Symptoms of the coronavirus infection — which can appear between two to 14 days after exposure — include fever, cough and shortness of breath and have ranged from mild to severe illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The deadly infection has also put a damper on Lunar New Year celebrations with many cities and businesses throughout China cancelling their planned festivities. The Times reported the country has extended the holiday by three extra days in an effort to temporarily limit travel.
On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. State Department would organize a flight out of Wuhan for diplomats and some private citizens.
About 1,000 American citizens are believed to live in and around the city.
“This capacity is extremely limited and if there is insufficient ability to transport everyone who expresses interest, priority will be given to individuals at greater risk from coronavirus,” the embassy’s notice read.
The State Department also increased its warning to a Level 4 — its highest warning — notifying U.S. citizens not to travel to Hubei province in China, in which Wuhan sits. The remainder of the country remains under a Level 2 risk, telling people to exercise increased caution.
While The Times reported there have been no deaths outside China from people who have contracted the coronavirus, fear is still abound. Over the weekend, a passenger exhibiting flu-like symptoms who had reportedly recently traveled to Beijing was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight, Fox News reported. The passenger was flying from Las Vegas and was met by medical personnel when the flight arrived at the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
“Out of an abundance of caution, and in light of the recent concerns of the coronavirus, our crew followed recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control for responding to concerns to ensure the customer, and those traveling with them, receive the assistance or support they may need,” the airline said in a statement to the network.