Arizona, California cases push US tally of new virus to five

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The United States (US) has five confirmed cases of the new virus from China, all among people who travelled to the city at the centre of the outbreak, health officials said last Sunday.

Two new cases were reported last Sunday — one in Los Angeles County in California and the other in Maricopa County, Arizona. The latter case was someone with ties to Arizona State University who did not live in school housing and had a history of travel to Wuhan, China, state health officials said.

Officials with the Arizona Department of Health Services said the Maricopa County patient wasn’t severely ill and was in isolation at home to keep the illness from spreading. The department said it would not release potentially identifying information on the person, including the gender and age, and declined to say whether the person was a student or faculty member.

The LA patient alerted authorities that he wasn’t feeling well upon arriving at Los Angeles International Airport. The patient was taken by ambulance to a hospital, health officials said at last Sunday’s news conference.

“Everything worked as it should,” said Dr Sharon Balter with the LA County Department of Public Health. “The patient presented for care, the patient was immediately transported to a hospital, the patient has remained in the hospital.”

Officials did not provide details about the patient, except to say that the individual was a traveller from Wuhan, China.

The three previously reported cases were a patient in Orange County, California; a man in his 30s in Washington state; and a woman in her 60s from Chicago.

The virus can cause fever, coughing, wheezing and pneumonia. It is a member of the coronavirus family that’s a close cousin to the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) viruses that have caused outbreaks in the past.

Dozens of people have died from the virus in China, which has issued massive travel bans in hard-hit sections of that country to try to stem spread of the virus. The US consulate in Wuhan announced last Sunday that it would evacuate its personnel and some private citizens aboard a charter flight.

The US patients generally have been reported to be in good condition and were hospitalised in isolation for monitoring.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expects many more Americans to be diagnosed with the newly discovered virus, which is believed to have an incubation period of about two weeks, as worldwide the number of confirmed cases nears 2,000. The CDC is screening passengers on direct and connecting flights from Wuhan at five major airports in Atlanta, Chicago, New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

CDC officials noted last Sunday that over two dozen people who had been suspected of having the illness ended up testing negative.

Guidance from the CDC advises that people who have had casual contact with the patient are at “minimal risk” for developing infection.