The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the first U.S. case of the mysterious coronavirus that has already claimed lives and sickened hundreds more in China.
A traveler from China was diagnosed in Seattle with the Wuhan coronavirus, a CDC spokesman, Benjamin Haynes, confirmed to Reuters on Tuesday. The New York Times and CNN also reported on the development.
The health agency will offer more details about the case later Tuesday.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is expected Wednesday to hold a meeting with a panel of medical experts to determine if the Wuhan virus outbreak should trigger a global health emergency. The virus has been reported in around five countries so far.
In addition, info about newly reported #nCoV2019 infections suggests there may now be sustained human-to-human transmission. But more information and analysis are needed on this new virus to understand the full extent of human-to-human transmission and other important details.
— World Health Organization Western Pacific (@WHOWPRO) January 21, 2020
It was in 2019 when the WHO declared a global health emergency for an infectious disease following an outbreak of Ebola in eastern Congo, which killed thousands of people. The agency declared global health emergencies for the Zika virus in 2016, the 2009 swine flu, and the Ebola and polio outbreaks in 2014.
It’s not clear if the infected person in Seattle was able to transmit the virus to anyone else in the United States.
Chinese health authorities acknowledged Monday that the coronavirus has been transmitted between humans, prompting concerns of an epidemic in China as hundreds of millions of people travel across the country for Chinese New Year this week.
Officials said most of the cases are in Hubei Province, of which Wuhan is its capital city. “We recommend outsiders not come to Wuhan and also that Wuhan residents not leave Wuhan without a special reason,” Zhou Xianwang, the city’s mayor, told state media on Tuesday.
On Monday, the CDC wrote that “many of the patients in the outbreak in Wuhan, China have reportedly had some link to a large seafood and animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. However, a growing number of patients reportedly have not had exposure to animal markets, suggesting limited person-to-person spread is occurring.”
As a result, the agency said it updated its travel health notice system to provide information to people who might be traveling to Wuhan.
The CDC announced it also started “entry screening of passengers on direct and connecting flights from Wuhan China to the three main ports of entry in the United States” starting Jan. 17.