CDC quarantine is the first on U.S. soil in 50 years
Citing continued steep increases in China cases of 2019-nCoV — the novel coronavirus first reported in the city of Wuhan there — as well as a continuing rising death toll from the virus there, a growing list of countries also reporting confirmed cases, and confirmation that the virus has been transmitted by individuals without symptoms, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today announced the quarantine of 195 Americans flown out of Wuhan this week.
The Americans, who landed at a California military base Wednesday, will remain at the base for 14 days in the first officially mandated quarantine in this country in more than 50 years, Dr. Martin Cetron of the CDC said. The previous quarantine was occasioned in the 1960s by a suspected case of smallpox, which the United States was leading international efforts to eradicate at that time, Dr. Cetron said.
None of the Americans returned on the flight from Wuhan has tested positive for the virus, but the current test, which relies on a nasal swab, does not have the capacity to detect the virus in asymptomatic individuals.
All of six the people who previously diagnosed with the coronavirus in the United States — in Orange County, Chicago, and Maricopa County, Arizona — remain in isolation, according to the most recent reports. Isolation, a protective measure to prevent the spread of infection from people who are known to be infected, differs from quarantine, which contains people potentially exposed to infection.
The move is “may seem drastic,” but is “science-based,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier said today, noting the number of confirmed cases in China has jumped 26% in the last 24 hours. Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, and where the 195 Americans — many State Department employees — were living until earlier this week, remains the epicenter of the epidemic in China, she said.
“We would rather be remembered for over-reacting than under-reacting,” she said.
The quarantine offers protective benefits to the individuals and their families, she said, that include ready access to testing and treatment should signs of infection develop, as well as protection of family members.
While one of the returning Americans arriving Wednesday did object to what was originally an invitation to stay at the military base for the coming two weeks, and was then presented with a quarantine order, “most” people, once educated on the public health and individual benefits of quarantine during an outbreak “are fine with it,” Dr. Cetron said. When people who had been exposed to SARS were quarantined in Canada during that outbreak, 90% were accepting of the order, he said.