Washington man first in US to catch new virus from China

Washington man first in US to catch new virus from China

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

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SEATTLE, United States (AP) — The US on Tuesday reported its first case of a new and potentially deadly virus circulating in China, saying a Washington state resident who returned last week from the outbreak's epicentre was hospitalised near Seattle.

The man, identified only as a Snohomish County resident is in his 30s, was in good condition and wasn't considered a threat to medical staff or the public, health officials said.

US health officials stressed that they believe the virus' overall risk to the American public remained low.

The newly discovered virus has infected about 300 people, all of whom had been in China, and killed six. The virus can cause coughing, fever, breathing difficulty and pneumonia. The US joins a growing list of places outside mainland China reporting cases, following Thailand, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

Airports around the world have stepped up monitoring, checking passengers from China for signs of illness in hopes of containing the virus during the busy Lunar New Year travel season.

Late last week, US health officials began screening passengers from Wuhan in central China, where the outbreak began. The screening had been underway at three US airports — New York City's Kennedy airport and the Los Angeles and San Francisco airports. On Tuesday, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention announced it would add Chicago's O'Hare airport and Atlanta's airport to the mix later this week.

What's more, officials will begin forcing all passengers from Wuhan to go to one of those five airports if they wish to enter the US.

The US resident had no symptoms when he arrived at the Seattle-Tacoma airport last Wednesday, but he contacted doctors on Sunday when he started feeling ill, officials said. Lab testing on Monday confirmed he had the virus.

“The gentleman right now is very healthy,” said Dr Nancy Messonnier of the CDC.

The hospital, Providence Regional Medical Centre in Everett, said in a statement that it expected the man would be monitored there at least until Thursday.

CDC officials said they sent a team to Washington to try to track down people who might have come in contact with the man. The hospital also said it was contacting “the small number of staff and patients” who may have been with the man at a clinic.

Health officials described the number of possible contacts since he got back to the US as small.

Last month, doctors began seeing the new virus in people who got sick after spending time at a food market in Wuhan. More than 275 cases of the newly identified virus have been confirmed in China, most of them in Wuhan, according to the World Health Organisation.

The count includes six deaths — all in China, most of them age 60 or older, including at least some who had a previous medical condition.

Officials have said it probably spread from animals to people, but this week Chinese officials said they've concluded it also can spread from person to person.


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