Jan. 22 (UPI) — Coronavirus has arrived in the United States, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to screen all travelers arriving from China and distribute a faster test to speed diagnoses to try to control its spread.
After confirming the first case — in a 30-year-old man from Seattle who had traveled to Wuhan, China, ground zero for the outbreak — officials at the CDC this week outlined steps being taken to contain the virus, which has sickened more than 400 people in China, causing death in 17.
The Washington state resident is currently undergoing treatment and is reportedly doing well, though the global outbreak continues to spread. In addition to China, cases have previously been reported in Japan, Thailand and South Korea, and on Wednesday Hong Kong confirmed it’s first case.
Although the first U.S. case was confirmed Tuesday, CDC officials have been planning for a potential outbreak since early January. The agency said it first alerted clinicians nationwide to “be on the look-out for patients with respiratory symptoms and a history of travel to Wuhan” on Jan. 8.
The CDC said it is developing guidance for clinicians for testing and treatment of the strain of virus currently in circulation, called 2019-nCoV, and they are working with industry to create a diagnostic test designed to detect it in clinical specimens.
Currently, testing for the virus must take place at CDC laboratories. However, the agency said it plans to share its testing protocols with “domestic and international partners” in the coming weeks.
On Friday, the CDC began implementing public health entry screening at three international airports: San Francisco , John F. Kennedy in New York and LAX in Los Angeles. Tuesday, it said it plans to add entry health screening at two more airports — Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta and O’Hare in Chicago.
The agency “also will funnel all travelers from Wuhan, China to the five airports conducting entry health screening,” CDC said. “Together, the five airports will cover all travelers arriving in the United States whose travel originated from Wuhan, China.”
CDC has also activated its Emergency Operations Center to better provide ongoing support to the nation’s coronavirus response.
Officials in China said Wednesday that they are particularly concerned about the virus, a form of viral pneumonia, spreading as people travel for Chinese New Year celebrations, which begin on Saturday. According to the country’s National Health Commission, the source of the infection has not been located and its means of transmission is not clear.
On Jan. 17, the Chinese health agency announced that 2019-nCoV will be treated as a Grade A infectious disease, meaning that strict prevention and control measures, including mandatory quarantine of patients and medical observation for those who have had close contact with patients, will be implemented.
The Chinese government said Wednesday that it is sharing information regularly and working closely with the World Health Organization, which has a team on the ground in Wuhan to assist in virus response. WHO announced it planned to meet Wednesday to discuss the situation.
Local leaders in Wuhan, in central China, have asked locals not to leave the city and for people from outside region planning to travel there to reconsider, if possible.