The first U.S. case of coronavirus originating from China has been reported in a man in Washington state, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention.
The Snohomish County man, who is in his 30s, returned to the U.S. from Wuhan, China on Jan. 15, traveling through Sea-Tac International Airport. The virus is believed to have originated from Wuhan.
Health officials and the CDC have tracked his flight schedule, and impacted passengers have been notified.
He appears to have developed symptoms after visiting and was hospitalized at Providence Medical Center in Everett. The man is in satisfactory condition and being monitored in an isolation unit, according to Providence.
Medical professionals want to monitor the patient for at least 48 hours before he is released back into the public. Doctors will make a decision based on the individual's condition.
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“As our team of experts partners with infectious disease specialists locally, nationally and around the globe to learn more about the 2019 novel coronavirus, our first priority remains public safety,” said Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman. “We believe the risk to the public is low. And as this situation evolves, we will continue to communicate with the CDC, Snohomish County and the public.”
Gov. Jay Inslee said the response to the situation has been quick and multi-tiered.
The Washington State Department of Health is working to track down people the man may have been in contact with. Agencies at the state and federal level are working together to monitor the virus and the exposed patient.
The CDC and the Department of Health emphasize that there is a low risk to the public.
"The important thing to note is that there isn't a risk level that would suggest that people should be doing anything differently than they normally would. This is not a moment of high anxiety," Inslee said.
"At this point, folks should go about their normal business. If you have a cough, or a sneeze cover those. Stay home of you're ill. If you have not yet gotten your flu shot, do that. In part, that's just good health this time of year. But if someone should have this infection it helps us rule out other diseases of concern," said State Secretary of Health Jon Weisman.
Seventeen people have died and over 540 have been infected in China so far by the mysterious respiratory infection. Chinese officials recently confirmed that the virus can be spread from person to person, although it is unclear how easily it spreads.
Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said the travel-related spread of the illness has been confirmed in Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea.
The outbreak initially was connected to a seafood market in the central city of Wuhan, but human-to-human transmission could make the virus spread more quickly and widely. News of the illness spreading among people came as China reported a sharp uptick in cases.
The World Health Organization is expected to meet Wednesday to decide whether to declare it an international public health emergency, the New York Times reported.
The CDC staff set up checkpoints at San Francisco International Airport, new York (JFK), and Los Angeles (LAX) airports and has screened more than 1,200 passengers traveling through San Francisco International Airport. Additional checkpoints will be added at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta and O'Hare International Airport in Chicago.
Inslee said that those who fly into the state of Washington from China will be funneled through one of the five airports that have the screenings for coronavirus. Sea-Tac will not initiate screenings.
Despite the confirmed U.S case, Dr. Messonnier said the CDC "continues to believe the risk of this coronavirus on the American population is low right now."
Health officials are still working to understand the virus, so they don't know how long the man had the virus before he showed symptoms.
Now, the CDC and the state are working with the man to track down anyone he may have been in contact with.
Face masks are selling out and temperature checks at airports are the new norm as China tries to control the outbreak that has reached four other countries and territories and threatens to spread further during the Lunar New Year travel rush.
The stock prices of some companies that sell masks have risen, but markets fell in much of Asia as investors worried about the potential impact on tourism and the economy. That prompted a selloff of airlines and other travel businesses.
"We take this very seriously and, while this is the first case in the U.S., there will likely be others. Washington state will continue to work to share information and help however we can," Inslee said, in part, in a statement.