Jan 21, 2020 - Health

Deadly coronavirus from China found in U.S. patient, CDC says

Security officer at LAX airport where flight passengers wait to be screened for the Wuhan coronavirus
An airport officer walks past international travelers arriving at Los Angeles International Airport on the first day of health screenings for coronavirus of people coming from Wuhan, China, Jan. 18. Photo: David McNew/stringer/Getty Images

The first U.S. case of the new coronavirus that's killed at least six people and caused illness in multiple countries has been confirmed in Washington state.

The latest: In an effort to stem the spread of the deadly virus in America, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is rolling out a "funneling" of flights directly or indirectly from Wuhan, China, to five specific airports where screenings will be done, adding Chicago and Atlanta to prior designated screening airports.

Details: The U.S. resident had visited Wuhan and arrived in Seattle on Jan. 15 via an indirect flight to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. After falling ill with pneumonia symptoms on Jan. 19 and seeing news reports, he admitted himself into Providence Regional Medical Center, where he was isolated. He is doing well now.

  • The patient reports he had not visited the Wuhan seafood market implicated in the origination of the 2019-nCoV infection and was not knowingly in contact with anyone who was ill.
  • People he's had contact with recently are being traced now and will be monitored, the CDC says.
  • The World Health Organization confirms cases in Wuhan, Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, as well as Taiwan, Japan, Thailand and South Korea. China suggested travel restrictions for anyone ill and confirmed nearly 300 patients Tuesday night, although the Imperial College London issued a Jan. 17 report estimating the number of people in Wuhan who likely had an onset of symptoms by Jan. 12 may be closer to 1,723 people.

Why it matters: "This is a rapidly evolving situation and obviously very fluid," Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Axios Tuesday morning. "The situation is evolving — literally as every hour goes by, new cases emerge."

  • "The key issue is how easily and sustainably the virus can spread. We don't completely have that nailed down yet," said Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, at a press conference.
  • While Chinese health officials initially stated the virus did not appear to transmit easily between people, they confirmed Monday that it does transmit human-to-human.

What they're saying: Tom Inglesby, director of Johns Hopkins' Center for Health Security, says the CDC and Chinese health officials appear to be taking "sensible" precautions for "this part of the outbreak."

  • Control measures are being implemented to limit the spread of the infection, while collaboration between countries is improving the understanding of the actual virus, Inglesby tells Axios. The more data that can be gathered, the better health officials will understand the scope and severity of the outbreak.
  • There's always a tricky line between preventing the spread of disease — which may or may not cause severe illness — and devastating industries or even economies with decisions to halt travel or trade, he says.
  • For instance, he says, "If things get more complicated in the world, and there are changes to flight patterns [long term], we may need a systematically planned collaboration between the public and private sectors."

Background: Coronaviruses are zoonotic, which means they can transmit from animal to human, and then have the ability to evolve so they can transmit between humans. They range in severity from causing the common cold to deadly diseases like SARS and MERS.

What's next: The WHO is holding an emergency committee meeting Wednesday in Geneva to determine whether the outbreak "constitutes a public health emergency of international concern, and what recommendations should be made to manage it."

  • Meanwhile, Fauci says the National Institutes of Health has started working on a vaccine targeting this particular coronavirus, which he hopes will be ready for a Phase 1 clinical trial in three months or so.

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