US cities on high alert as two coronavirus cases are confirmed and 63 people are tested9 min read

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Cities across America are on high alert amid the escalating coronavirus crisis as 63 people in 22 states are suspected to have contracted the deadly strain. 

Two cases have been confirmed in the US but officials have said they expect that number to grow as dozens more people are being tested for the virus that’s sickened more than 1,400 and killed 42 in at least 12 countries. 

Extra precautions are being taken at airports nationwide as all passengers inbound from Wuhan, the Chinese city where the outbreak originated in late December, are being funneled to five major hubs for screening.  

The US government has ordered evacuations for some 1,000 citizens and diplomats in Wuhan.  

The city, which has a population of around 11 million, has been under quarantine since Thursday as officials try to slow the spread of the virus traced back to a seafood market where wildlife was allegedly sold illegally. 

Cities across America are on high alert amid the escalating coronavirus crisis as 63 people in 22 states are suspected to have contracted the deadly strain. The map above shows confirmed and suspected cases in the US

Cities across America are on high alert amid the escalating coronavirus crisis as 63 people in 22 states are suspected to have contracted the deadly strain. The map above shows confirmed and suspected cases in the US

The United States government is planning to evacuate diplomats and citizens from the coronavirus-stricken Chinese city of Wuhan. Photos from inside the intensive care unit at Zhongnan Hospital in Wuhan show medical workers caring for critically-ill patients this week

The United States government is planning to evacuate diplomats and citizens from the coronavirus-stricken Chinese city of Wuhan. Photos from inside the intensive care unit at Zhongnan Hospital in Wuhan show medical workers caring for critically-ill patients this week

Both of the American patients already diagnosed with the disease – a man in his 30s in Washington state and a 60-year-old woman in Chicago – has recently traveled to Wuhan. They are being held in isolation at hospitals and are said to be recovering well. 

CONFIRMED US CORONAVIRUS CASES 

1. Man in Washington state

The first US coronavirus case was confirmed on Tuesday, January 21. 

The patient – a Washington man in his 30s who lives in Snohomish County – has been quarantined at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, outside of Seattle.  

The man had had traveled by himself from Wuhan but did not visit any of the markets at the epicenter of the outbreak. 

He reportedly had no symptoms upon arrival in the US on January 15, but after reading about the outbreak online and developing symptoms, he contacted his doctor.

The patient allegedly sought treatment on January 16 and was tested the following day. 

He is said to be in stable condition. He is being treated in a bio-containment room by a few staff members and a robot to limit the spread of the virus. 

The robot has a stethoscope attached to take the man’s vitals and a large screen so doctors can communicate with him, Dr George Diaz, chief of the infectious disease division at the Providence Regional Medical Center, told CNN.  

‘The nursing staff in the room move the robot around so we can see the patient in the screen, talk to him,’ Dr Diaz told the network.

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Officials have also been monitoring more than a dozen people the man reportedly came into contact with in the five days between when he arrived back in the US and when he was diagnosed.  

2. Woman in Chicago

The CDC confirmed the second US case on Friday – a 60-year-old woman in Chicago, Illinois, who had traveled to Wuhan in late December.  

The woman, who has not been named, arrived at O’Hare International Airport on January 13 but did not begin experiencing symptoms until several days later.

Health officials say the woman appears to be ‘well’ and in stable condition. 

She is in isolation, but it wasn’t revealed which hospital she is in. 

It appears that all of the patients currently awaiting test results after showing symptoms consistent with the virus – such as fever, cough and runny nose – had either visited Wuhan recently or were in contact with someone who visited the city.

Those patients are believed to have all been isolated either in hospitals or in their homes to reduce the risk of exposing others.  

Two people from Minnesota and three people from Michigan are currently being tested.

The patients from Michigan have reportedly agreed to remain in isolation until their tests results return, the Detroit Free Press reported. 

Also being monitored are two college students, one from Texas A&M University and another from Tennessee Tech University.

For the Texas student, Brazos County Health District officials said the male had ‘mild’ symptoms that resembled the coronavirus and had traveled to Wuhan recently.

Results of tests will be announced to the public if the patient tests positive for coronavirus.

Officials said the patient is currently being kept isolated at home and that it is safe for student to attend classes. 

‘This patient did travel to the area of concern in China within the last 14 days and thankfully had mild upper respiratory symptoms, and he was improving,’ said Dr Eric Wilke with the Brazos County Health Department.

‘I believe the time the patient presented at the emergency department, it was more out of concern,’ said Dr Eric Wilke with the Brazos County Health Department. 

Meanwhile, the Tennessee Department of Health said it decided to test the student because he or she had ‘very mild symptoms’ and had a recent concerning travel history that met the criteria for testing.

No results have been confirmed and the student is being kept in isolation. 

Los Angeles International Airport was also on high alert after a passenger who arrived on Wednesday was sent to hospital after he or she appeared to be ill.

The unnamed passenger arrived on an American Airlines flight from Mexico City around 7pm, CBS Los Angeles reported.

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However, it remains unclear if the passenger is from Mexico City, or if they originated from another city. 

Several people in California, particularly in Alameda County and the Bay Area, are also being examined to see if they have the virus that resembles SARS. 

On Friday, North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services also reported that it is investigating a case.

The suspected patient arrived at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on January 23 after having traveled to Wuhan but not to the seafood market to which many early cases have been linked, according to a news release.

Four other potential cases are also under investigation in New York state.  

In Colorado, a patient with respiratory symptoms was placed in isolation at Lakewood’s Centura – St. Anthony Hospital after they were found to have recently traveled to Wuhan.  

The hospital said it could be several days for coronavirus test results to come back from the CDC, but public health risk is considered low at this time.   

The US government is working to prevent American exposure abroad by bringing home all US citizens currently in Wuhan. 

A chartered Boeing 767 jet, which carries around 230 people, is scheduled to carry diplomats from the American consulate as well as US citizens and their families back to the US on Sunday, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a person familiar with the operation. 

President Trump thanked President Xi Jinping and China for its 'transparency' in fighting coronavirus on Twitter Friday

President Trump thanked President Xi Jinping and China for its ‘transparency’ in fighting coronavirus on Twitter Friday

It is understood medical personnel will be on the flight to care for anyone who may have been infected by the virus and prevent it from spreading.  

Washington was given approval for the operation from China’s Foreign Ministry and other government agencies following negotiations in recent days. 

The US also plans to temporarily shut its Wuhan consulate, it said.

In a tweet on Friday, President Donald Trump thanked President Xi Jinping and China for its ‘transparency’ in fighting coronavirus.

‘China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!’ Trump wrote. 

Officials are planning to temporarily shutter the US Consulate General in Wuhan (pictured)

Officials are planning to temporarily shutter the US Consulate General in Wuhan (pictured)

News of the evacuation came as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide jumped to 1,396 on Saturday morning, including 42 fatalities. Patients are seen undergoing treatment at Wuhan Central Hospital

News of the evacuation came as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide jumped to 1,396 on Saturday morning, including 42 fatalities. Patients are seen undergoing treatment at Wuhan Central Hospital

Dramatic video showed people collapsing on sidewalks in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the outbreak originated

Medics treat a collapsed person in Wuhan

Dramatic video showed people collapsing on sidewalks in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the outbreak originated 

Some 57 million people across 15 Chinese cities are now on lockdown as officials work to slow the virus’ rapid spread.  

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The coronavirus strain, known as 2019-nCov, is believed to have emerged from illegally-traded wildlife at a seafood market in Wuhan, a city 700 miles south of the capital of Beijing.

While preliminary research suggests the virus was passed to humans from snakes, Chinese health officials reported this week that some cases have been caused by human-to-human transmission increasing the risk of it spreading. 

As of Friday, 1,368 cases have been reported in China and another 28 have been reported across 11 other countries: Thailand (4), Taiwan (3), Singapore (3), France (3), Malaysia (3), Japan (3), South Korea (2), Vietnam (2), Nepal (1), Australia (4) and the US (2).     

Coronavirus: What we know so far 

What is this virus?

The virus has been identified as a new type of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of pathogens, most of which cause mild respiratory infections such as the common cold.

But coronaviruses can also be deadly. SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, is caused by a coronavirus and killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in the early 2000s.

Can it kill?

Yes. Seventeen people have so far died after testing positive for the virus. What are the symptoms?

Its symptoms are typically a fever, cough and trouble breathing, but some patients have developed pneumonia, a potentially life-threatening infection that causes inflammation of the small air sacs in the lungs. People carrying the novel coronavirus may only have mild symptoms, such as a sore throat. They may assume they have a common cold and not seek medical attention, experts fear.

How is it detected?

The virus’s genetic sequencing was released by scientists in China to the rest of the world to enable other countries to quickly diagnose potential new cases. This helps other countries respond quickly to disease outbreaks.

To contain the virus, airports are detecting infected people with temperature checks. But as with every virus, it has an incubation period, meaning detection is not always possible because symptoms have not appeared yet.

How did it start and spread?

The first cases identified were among people connected to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan.

Cases have since been identified elsewhere which could have been spread through human-to-human transmission.

What are countries doing to prevent the spread?

Countries in Asia have stepped up airport surveillance. They include Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines.

Australia and the US are also screening patients for a high temperature, and the UK announced it will screen passengers returning from Wuhan.

Is it similar to anything we’ve ever seen before?

Experts have compared it to the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The epidemic started in southern China and killed more than 700 people in mainland China, Hong Kong and elsewhere