A Washington state resident returned last week from a trip to China. Days after his return, he became ill. U.S. officials believe he’s the country’s first case of a new and possibly deadly virus.
Health authorities have identified the germ behind the outbreak as a new type of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some of which cause the common cold. Others in bats, camels, and other animals have changed into more severe illnesses.
The sick man’s name has not been released. He is in his 30s and in good overall health. He isn’t considered a threat to medical staff or the public, health officials say.
The newly discovered virus has infected about 300 people. All were in China; six people died. The virus can cause coughing, fever, breathing difficulty, and pneumonia. Other places reporting cases are Thailand, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.
Airports around the world have stepped up monitoring. They are checking passengers from China for signs of illness. They hope to containing the virus during the busy Lunar New Year travel season.
Late last week, U.S. health officials began screening passengers from Wuhan in central China, where the outbreak began. The screening had been underway at three U.S. airports—New York City’s Kennedy airport and the Los Angeles and San Francisco airports. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will add Chicago’s O’Hare airport and Atlanta’s airport later this week.
Officials will also begin forcing all passengers from Wuhan to go to one of those five airports if they wish to enter the United States.
The hospitalized U.S. resident had no symptoms when he arrived at the Seattle-Tacoma airport last Wednesday. He went to a doctor on Sunday with a fever and a cough. Lab testing on Monday confirmed he had the virus.
Providence Regional Medical Center says the man will remain in isolation and under monitoring there at least until Thursday.
CDC officials sent a team to Washington to try to track down people who might have come in contact with the man. The hospital is also contacting staff and patients who may have been with the man at a clinic.
Health professionals say the virus probably spreads from animals to people. But just this week, Chinese officials concluded it can also spread from person to person.
The CDC’s Dr. Nancy Messonnier says health officials expect to see more cases around the world in the coming days. Still, they believe the virus’ overall risk to the American public remains low.
(People wear face masks as they ride an escalator at the Hong Kong International Airport in Hong Kong, Tuesday, January 21, 2020. AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)