Second Case of Coronavirus in U.S. as CDC Tests Dozens with ‘Many More’ Expected

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that more cases of the deadly coronavirus originating in China are likely to pop up in the United States as the second case here was confirmed.

CDC said that the patient, identified as a woman in her 60s and Chicago resident, arrived in Illinois from the epicenter of the outbreak — Wuhan, China — on Jan. 13 and began to feel ill a few days later. She was admitted to the hospital and, while the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) are investigating locations where this patient went, the CDC said it’s believed the person “has had very limited movement outside the home” since returning from China and has “limited close contacts” who are being monitored for symptoms. She is reported to be in stable condition; CDC has not revealed the name of the hospital.

While the agency says the risk to Americans is “low at this time,” CDC activated its Emergency Operations Center to coordinate response.

China has reported more than 800 cases and 25 deaths as of Friday, according to the World Health Organization. France has confirmed three cases of the coronavirus.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters in an agency briefing that CDC has been investigating possible coronavirus in 63 patients across 22 states — 11 patients have tested negative, and two were confirmed positive (Illinois and Washington state). Testing takes several days.

One of those dozens of pending cases is being treated for a respiratory illness at St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood, Colo. The person traveled to Wuhan and is now in an isolation unit.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy, said he was aware of the potential spread of the virus to his state. “I contacted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of State earlier this week to ensure Congress is prepared to serve as a collaborative partner in a successful response,” he said.

The Senate Foreign Relations and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees also received a briefing Friday from public health experts. “There is a lot that we already know about this virus, and the American people should rest assured that U.S. agencies have experience in managing similar global health threats and are actively applying lessons learned from other outbreaks, including SARS and MERS,” Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch (R-Idaho) said afterward, acknowledging that current screening at five U.S. airports “will not be 100 percent effective in capturing every traveler who may be infected – especially if they are not sick upon arrival.” He added that “public awareness and diligence is key to infection control.”

Risch and other leaders of the two committees — Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) — issued a joint statement after the briefing saying they are “in close communication with United States government agencies on actions and precautions needed to prevent further spread of this virus.” They also urged “cooperation and transparency” from China.

On the CDC call, Messonnier said that “the situation continues to evolve rapidly” with detection of potential cases, testing, isolation and contact tracing — and they expect “many more” patients under investigation in the next few days.

“Although Chinese officials have closed transport within and out of Wuhan, China, CDC will continue to conduct enhanced screening at five designated airports: New York JFK, San Francisco, LAX, Chicago O’Hare and Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson,” she said. “We are currently evaluating the extent and duration of this enhanced screening.  Every day we learn more and every day we assess to see if our guidance or response can be improved.”

As of Thursday, more than 2,000 people had been screened from about 200 flights. One person was sent for extra evaluation; no cases have yet been discovered through the airport screening.

Messonnier said that “the information that we have so far suggests an incubation period around two weeks,” and “that’s not surprising given the kind of virus this is.”

“I think it would be premature to conclude that we know whether it is more or less infectious than SARS and more or less severe than SARS.  It is just too early to say that.”

Dr. Marty Cetron, director of CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, said “all travelers that are coming from any potential area” are being advised at airports to monitor their symptoms for 14 day and are receiving info on “how to engage the healthcare system safely and have your physician report to the public health infrastructure.”

The World Health Organization said in a Friday report that “one confirmed case in Vietnam had no travel history to any part of China but was a family member of a confirmed case who visited Wuhan; this suggests an instance of human to human transmission that occurred in Vietnam.”

From Thursday to Friday alone, WHO said China reported an additional 259 confirmed cases of the virus. Of China’s reported 830 cases, 177 patients were reported as being seriously ill.

“WHO assesses the risk of this event to be very high in China, high at the regional level and moderate at the global level,” the report said.

OUTBREAK: Is America Prepared to Face Growing Biothreats?

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera and SiriusXM.

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