US Confirms Second Case of Human-to-Human Coronavirus Transmission

February 4, 2020 Updated: February 6, 2020
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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Feb. 3 confirmed a second case of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus within the United States.

CDC officials warned of further cases of human transmission after it was announced that a central California couple, both 57 years old, had been sickened by the virus after the husband traveled to the city of Wuhan—the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in China. The wife didn’t travel to China, confirming she caught the virus from her husband at their home in San Benito County, officials said in a release (pdf).

“We expect to see more cases of person-to-person spread,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during a conference call.

Neither had left home since the husband returned from China, local authorities said.

The diagnosis brings the number of U.S. cases to 11, including six in California.

San Benito County Public Health Services have provided guidance for home isolation and are closely monitoring their medical condition, according to the release.

“We continue to monitor the situation closely to protect the health of San Benito County residents and limit the spread of this virus,” said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, a San Benito County health officer (pdf).

“We are working closely with Bay Area health officials, local health care providers, and community partners.”

Fenstersheib added that the risk to the general public in California and in San Benito County remains low at this time.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is making available nearly $250 million in emergency funds to cover the cost of the response, an agency spokesman said on Feb. 3.

Some of that may be used to support screening and monitoring of people entering the United States from China—U.S. citizens, as well as family members of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, who are exempt from the presidential proclamation issued on Jan. 31 suspending entry of foreign nationals who had visited China within the past 14 days.

The CDC outlined enhanced screening plans for individuals returning from China, who may face a 14-day quarantine if they’ve been in Wuhan or Hubei Province, the epicenter of the epidemic.

Passengers arriving in the United States on commercial airlines will be directed to one of 11 U.S. airports for additional health assessments. If they show virus symptoms such as fever, they’ll be transferred for medical evaluation.

Messonnier said the CDC is working with the states to determine where travelers will be quarantined.

Flights with U.S. government employees being evacuated by the State Department will go to military bases. They’ll be under federal quarantine for 14 days from when they left Wuhan.

People who don’t have symptoms will be allowed to continue to their final destination, and will be asked to stay at home as much as possible and monitor their health for 14 days.

The first U.S. case of person-to-person spread of the virus was announced last week in Illinois. The CDC said Feb. 3 it’s currently monitoring 82 people for potential infection.

Second Coronavirus Death Outside of China

Hong Kong on Feb. 4 became the second locale to record a death outside of mainland China, after the Philippines reported Feb. 2 that a 44-year-old Chinese man from Wuhan had died from the virus.

In Hong Kong, the Princess Margaret Hospital confirmed that a 39-year-old resident died from the virus, local media reported.

The man had traveled from Hong Kong to Wuhan on a high-speed train on Jan. 21 and returned two days later after boarding another train at Changsha South Railway Station in China’s Hunan Province.

On Jan. 29, he began having muscle pain and then developed a fever. He was immediately isolated at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where he was receiving treatment.

He tested positive for the virus on Jan. 31—the 13th confirmed case in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong has another 14 known cases of the virus—among them the man’s 72-year-old mother.

The novel coronavirus has spread to more than 20 countries and territories in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and Oceania; experts have said that the Chinese regime is likely underreporting the true scale of the virus.

Frank Fang and Reuters contributed to this report.