Third US case of coronavirus confirmed in California, health officials say
A laboratory technician works with a pipette at the Institute of Virology at the Charité Berlin Mitte, where investigations on coronavirus are underway.
Christophe Gateau | Getty Images
The third U.S. case of the new coronavirus has been confirmed in Orange County, California, the OC Health Care Agency’s Communicable Disease Control Division announced in a press release Sunday.
“The OC Health Care Agency’s (HCA) Communicable Disease Control Division received confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this evening that an Orange County, California case has tested positive for the novel coronavirus,” the agency said.
The patient has been described as a traveler from Wuhan, China — the epicenter of the disease’s outbreak — and is in isolation in a hospital in “good condition,” according to the release.
The new respiratory illness has so far sickened more than 1,975 people and killed 56, the majority of which are in Wuhan.
The HCA said it will be monitoring any close contacts, but that there is “no evidence that person-to-person transmission has occurred in Orange County.”
According to the CDC’s guidance, people who have “casual contact with a case” — for instance, it says, in the same grocery store or movie theater — “are at minimal risk of developing infection.”
“The current risk of local transmission remains low,” the HCA said, echoing the CDC’s prior statements that the U.S. public is not at high risk of transmission, though it said the situation “continues to evolve rapidly.”
The first two U.S. cases of the virus were a Washington state man in his 30s and later an Illinois woman in her 60s who had both traveled to Wuhan, currently reported to be in stable condition at area hospitals.
US evacuating Americans from Wuhan
The U.S. embassy in Beijing on Sunday issued a notice saying the U.S. consulate in Wuhan will evacuate its staff and some private citizens on a charter flight Tuesday to San Francisco, though seat numbers will be limited. Priority will be given to those “at greater risk” from the virus, the embassy said, which can progress to pneumonia and is a greater threat to the elderly and people already suffering from respiratory problems.
Chinese authorities have restricted travel for 17 cities in its central Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, an area encompassing more than 50 million people. Wuhan itself — where the virus first appeared, reportedly in a seafood market also selling illegal wildlife — has a population of 11 million. Hubei on Sunday shut down inter-city and inter-province buses in an effort to curb the outbreak.
On Saturday, Hong Kong leader Carry Lam declared a virus emergency in the city of 7.3 million, halting all official trips to mainland China, extending school cancellations and scrapping official plans for the Lunar New Year, China’s busiest travel week.
Australia confirmed its first four cases of the virus on Saturday and expects more, its health authorities said, as the country is a popular destination for Chinese tourists. While the majority of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths are in mainland China, the virus has also been identified in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Nepal, France, Australia and the U.S.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has so far declined to declare the disease a global health emergency, saying it needs more data. The virus is currently spreading through human-to-human contact and in medical settings, the organization said.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that tend to primarily affect animals, but can evolve and spread to humans. Symptoms for the strain currently moving around the globe include fever, coughing and shortness of breath, which can progress to pneumonia. Little is currently known about this new strain of coronavirus, and the medical community has yet to develop a cure for it.
The coronavirus family also includes the Sars virus (severe acute respiratory syndrome), whose nine-month outbreak in 2003 infected more than 8,000 people and killed 775, mostly in China.