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First confirmed case of Coronavirus reported in the US, says CDC

Officials believe the infection outbreak began at a seafood and poultry market in Wuhan, China in December.

First confirmed case of Coronavirus reported in the US, says CDC
Representative Image Source: Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Tuesday that a mysterious respiratory infection that has killed at least six people and sickened hundreds in Asia, has now been detected in a Washington State man. The man, in his 30s, is the first confirmed case of the virus in the United States that broke out last month in China. Although he is in stable condition at the moment, officials are being extremely cautious about the situation and monitoring him at the Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Washington.



According to The Washington Post, specimens from the patient were sent to the CDC for testing. On Monday, officials confirmed his case as the coronavirus that has infected over 440 people in China and others in Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. Officials believe the infection outbreak began in December in a seafood and poultry market in Wuhan. The rapid rate at which it spread led officials to conclude that the infection could be transmitted via both humans and animals. The Washington State man returned from Wuhan on January 15, two days before federal health officials began screening travelers from the central Chinese city at the San Francisco, New York’s John F. Kennedy, and Los Angeles international airports, reports The New York Times.



Shortly after arriving at Seattle's international airport, the unidentified patient began feeling ill. Having read online about the mysterious new virus, he reached out to his health-care provider on Sunday and informed them about his recent trip. Scott Lindquist—Washington state's epidemiologist—praised the man for his timely action in a news briefing on Tuesday. "He was a very astute gentleman. He was looking at the Internet actively," said Lindquist. Although health officials declined to identify the patient, they revealed that he has a mild case of pneumonia. 


Meanwhile, health-care workers and patients who may have been exposed to the patient have been asked to watch for symptoms and are being monitored by officials. Other passengers on the man's return flight to the United States have also been notified about potential exposure and will be monitored for fever and respiratory symptoms. "We’re very comfortable the patient is isolated and poses little risk to the staff or general public," said Dr. Chris Spitters, health officer at the Snohomish Health District. Spitters explained that strict isolation practices were implemented in "an abundance of caution."


"There is new information hour by hour, day by day, that we are tracking and following closely. The key issue we all need to understand is how easily and sustainably the virus is spread from human to human," said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the C.D.C.’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. On Tuesday, CDC officials announced plans to expand screening to international airports in Atlanta and Chicago, in addition to directing travelers arriving in the United States on direct and indirect flights from Wuhan to the five airports being screened.



According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that range from the common cold to much more serious diseases and infect both humans and animals. The strain of the virus spreading in China is related to two other coronaviruses that caused major outbreaks in recent years. "Since this is a respiratory virus, it is spread easier than Ebola, so it brings with it more fear of easily being transmitted between people," said Matthew Frieman, a virologist and associated professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. 



The WHO will be meeting on Wednesday to decide whether the outbreak should be declared an international public health emergency. However, information about the new virus is still sparse. "There are still more questions that we don’t know the answers to than things we do know. For example, what is the source? We don’t know exactly. The location likely was the live animal market, but we don’t know the particular animal. How frequent is human-to-human transmission? Could people with mild infections transmit this virus from person to person? That all remains still under investigation," said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.



A coronavirus infection can present itself as respiratory problems, difficulty breathing, fever, and cough. It could lead to severe cases of pneumonia, kidney failure, acute respiratory syndrome, and even death. According to the CDC, the elderly, young, and those with an already weakened immune system, face a higher risk of developing severe lower respiratory tract diseases of the likes of bronchitis and pneumonia.

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