WASHINGTON — Federal health officials announced on Tuesday the first US case of the Chinese coronavirus outbreak that looks likely to spread worldwide.
"We have now confirmed the first case of novel coronavirus in the United States," said the CDC's Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
The patient, a man in his thirties from Snohomish County, Washington state, had his infection confirmed by a newly developed CDC genetic test. He sought medical care on his own and is in good condition at a hospital in Everett, Washington.
Messonnier confirmed that the coronavirus, which apparently sprang from animal to human infections and was traced to a seafood market in Wuhan, China, can also be transmitted from one person to another.
Since late December, the virus has sickened about 300 people in China and killed six. Cases have also been reported in Japan, Thailand, and South Korea. The virus causes pneumonia-like symptoms and appears to be most dangerous to elderly people or those with compromised immune systems.
The CDC is screening air travelers from Wuhan, the origin of the outbreak, at airports in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. The agency plans to reroute all incoming travelers from Wuhan to one of those airports. China has since started a similar screening, as have other countries in Southeast Asia.
The Washington patient entered the US on Jan. 15 before this screening began, and he did not have symptoms on arrival. He alerted his doctor to the illness on Jan. 19, the CDC said.
"It doesn’t take much for a virus in general to go from being worrisome to being extremely worrisome, because they tend to morph and mutate a lot," said Messonnier last Friday during an update for reporters, where she had predicted a US case.
"We are especially worried and we’re taking a very cautious, proactive approach."