1st case of new SARS-like virus in US

Marco Green
January 23, 2020

The first USA case of a new coronavirus illness that originated in central China has been identified in a patient in Washington State, federal health officials announced on Tuesday.

A single patient in Washington had been traveling in Wuhan, the area of China hardest hit by the newly described virus, before returning to the USA last week.

Doctors at the University of Hong Kong published an initial paper on Tuesday modelling the spread of the virus which estimated that there have been some 1 343 cases in Wuhan - similar to a projection of 1 700 last week by Imperial College, London.

The new SARS-like virus that's causing an outbreak in China has now arrived in the United States, officials announced today (Jan. 21). The World Health Organization is meeting tomorrow to decide whether to declare the outbreak a public health emergency.

Late last week, USA health officials began screening passengers from central China at three U.S. airports. On Tuesday, the USA said that it had added new checkpoints in Atlanta and Chicago, in addition to existing checkpoints in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The new virus is in the same family as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus that spread around the world in 2003.

As of yet, there's no indication that the virus is spreading by human contact outside of China.

The commission announced measures to contain the disease as hundreds of millions of people travel across the country for this week's Lunar New Year holiday, including disinfection and ventilation at airports, train stations and shopping centres.

However, they say health-care workers have been asked to be vigilant and take a travel history for anyone reporting respiratory symptoms, following an outbreak first identified in China.

Professor Antoine Flahault, director of the Institute of Global Health at the University of Geneva, told AFP that the fact that the virus seems milder in the majority of people is "paradoxically more worrying" as it allows people to travel further before their symptoms are detected.

A significant issue in the panel's deliberations will be the severity of infections.

Coronaviruses like 2019-nCoV typically cause respiratory infections, and they appear to be widespread in animal species. Many such viruses cross the barrier between animals and humans, as the Wuhan virus appears to have done, according to Heymann, who's also a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who was formerly with the US CDC.

Also, if an ill passenger or crew member is confirmed as a probable case of nCoV, public health authorities should be notified about the contacts using the passenger locator form, the statement said. Others, like Ebola, emerge in small outbreaks, recede, and then reappear.

According to authorities in Wuhan, 25 of the more than 200 people infected in the city have already been discharged.

Despite the worries, the new virus is likely less deadly than SARS, said University of Sydney associate professor Adam Kamradt-Scott.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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