Health officials are carrying out medical tests for the new coronavirus strain on patients who have recently returned from Wuhan, China, in Alameda County, California, and Brazos County, Texas.
One of the patients is an unnamed student in Texas, who came down with a respiratory issue two weeks after traveling from Wahun.
According to Reuters, the patient is being kept isolated at home as officials investigate the cause of the illness. However, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spokeswoman has warned it could be a false alarm.
Meanwhile, an undisclosed number of patients are being tested in Alameda County in California’s Bay Area. The results are still pending and no new cases of the virus have been confirmed in the U.S. since January 21.
Dr. Erica Pan, a health officer for Alameda County in California’s Bay Area, told ABC7 the risk of catching the coronavirus in the Bay Area is thought to be “very low.” However, medics are on alert for anyone who has traveled to Wuhan and shows flu-like symptoms.
“We are looking at no confirmed cases in the Bay Area and we are screening and receiving and we have increased staffing,” said Pan.
“Because we are doing all this aggressive testing, if and when we detect our first case, we will be, and what our job to do in public health is to make sure that person is isolated”
The CDC announced the first (and only confirmed) travel-related case in the U.S. on Tuesday, when a man in Seattle, Washington, was diagnosed with the virus.
The patient sought treatment at a facility in Washington after returning to the country from Wahun on January 15, 2020. According to the CDC, an investigation into the incident is ongoing.
Meanwhile, officials have introduced checks at three U.S. airports on passengers arriving from Wuhan: San Francisco International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and Los Angeles International Airport.
According to the CDC, the airports were selected because they see the largest number of arrivals from Wuhan, Hubei Province.
Wuhan is the epicenter of the current outbreak, where a new, potentially deadly coronavirus emerged late December.
Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that range in severity from the common cold to the more deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which caused more than 700 deaths in a 2002-2003 outbreak.
Like similar viruses of this type, the new coronavirus can cause symptoms including fever, dry cough, shortness of breath and trouble breathing. Most people who contract the virus appear to experience milder symptoms.
Despite concerns about its spread, members of the World Health Organization (WHO) decided it was too early to consider the outbreak a public health emergency in a meeting on Thursday. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was keen to stress that the decision was not final, while urging countries to take steps to limit the virus’ spread.
According to John Hopkins, there have been 881 cases confirmed worldwide and 26 deaths at time of writing. The vast majority of cases (868) occurred in mainland China, but countries including Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan and Vietnam have also confirmed cases.
In the UK, the BBC reports 14 people have been tested for the coronavirus. Five of those tests were negative and nine are pending.The graph below from Statista shows how the new strain of coronavirus compares to previous coronavirus outbreaks in Asia.