First patient in U.S. confirmed with Wuhan coronavirus in Snohomish County, Washington

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A man in his 30s who had traveled to Wuhan City, China but had no known contacts sick with virus and no exposure to the seafood/live animal market linked to the first patients diagnosed with a novel coronavirus there, is the first patient confirmed to have the virus in the United States, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said today.

The patient, who arrived in the United States on Jan. 15, two days prior to the initiation of public health screening at three airports here, sought medical care from his health provider in Snohomish County on Sunday, was confirmed to have the virus on Sunday, and while hospitalized for monitoring and infection control, is doing well, Washington State health officials said.

CDC investigators are tracing his contacts from China to Snohomish County, and monitoring health workers and others known to have had contact with him closely. How easily the virus is transmitted is not yet known, Dr. Nancy Messonnier of CDC said. More than 300 people have been confirmed to have the virus in China, since the first patient was reported Dec. 12. Travelers from Wuhan to Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and South Korea have since been diagnosed with the virus, which is now confirmed to be transmitted from person to person.

Two more U.S. international airports, Chicago O’Hare and Hartfield-Jackson in Atlanta will initiate public health screening for the virus, Dr. Martin Cetron of CDC said, with all flights from Wuhan to the U.S. funneled through those, and the three airports — JFK in New York, San Francisco International Airport, and LAX — where screening is already underway. The five airports were selected for the volume of the passengers to pass through them, Dr. Cetron said. About 1,200 passengers from Wuhan, China have been screened on entry to the U.S. since screening began Friday night at JFK, Dr. Messonnier said, with none showing indications of the virus.

Still, airport entry screening is just one layer of defense in surveilling and containing the spread of the virus, health officials emphasized.

The case of the patient, who was asymptomatic on his arrival in the United States, and who health officials describe as “cooperative,” and “astute,” highlights “the importance of strong public health systems all across the country,” Washington State Health Secretary John Wiesman said.

The CDC had just launched a diagnostic test that, based on genetic sequencing of the virus shared by Chinese health officials, could quickly return results, Dr. Messonnier said. The test, now used at CDC will be shared with health departments across the U.S., she said.

The CDC has upgraded its advisory on travel to Wuhan, and considers older adults to be at potentially greater risk of severe illness.


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