US detects first novel coronavirus case, in traveler

Seattle from the air
Seattle from the air

kitz-travellers / iStock

In rapidly escalating developments with the spread of the Wuhan-linked novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today announced the first US case, involving a man who got sick after returning to Washington state from Wuhan and contacted medical authorities.

At a CDC media briefing today, health officials said the man, who is reported to be in stable condition, didn't visit any markets or have any contact with sick patients during his stay in Wuhan.

The CDC said it is expanding health checks in travelers from Wuhan to more US airports. (See today's other CIDRAP News story on international 2019-nCoV developments.)

Man stable, took indirect flight from Wuhan

The man, who is a resident of Snohomish County, arrived at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Jan 15, before screening began at three other US airports. Sea-Tac doesn't receive direct flights from Wuhan and doesn't receive large numbers of indirect flights.

Health officials said the man had been following 2019-nCoV developments online and reached out to health providers on Jan 19 when he started feeling sick. His medical team obtained samples and shipped them overnight to the CDC, where tests were positive for the new virus yesterday. The CDC's lab used its real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) test to confirm the result.

The man is currently hospitalized at Providence Medical Center, where he is in isolation and under monitoring. He is in good condition and receiving supportive care. Contact tracing is under way.

Health officials said there is little risk to the hospital staff or to the general public.

Scott Lindquist, MD, MPH, Washington's state epidemiologist, said health systems are aware of the new virus and are prepared to detect it early and minimize ongoing exposure. He added that the hospital recently had a drill to handle high-risk patients. "We were well prepared," he said.

Monitoring expands at US airports

Nancy Messonnier, MD, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said that, on Jan 19 as the nCoV situation was evolving in China and in the Asian region, federal officials decided to expand traveler health checks in people arriving from Wuhan at two more US airports: Atlanta and Chicago.

Also, health officials will funnel all Wuhan air travelers into the five US airports doing enhanced screening, which also includes JFK Airport in New York and international airports in San Francisco and Los Angeles. US officials used a similar strategy to screen people arriving from West Africa during the 2014 Ebola outbreak. The funneling process is complex, requiring air passengers to be rerouted and reticketed.

Martin Cetron, MD, who directs the CDC's Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, said traveler screening is just one part of a multipart system to help slow the spread of the virus.

See also:

Jan 21 CDC press release

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