Too soon to tell if new virus as risky as SARS cousin

Saturday, 25 Jan, 2020

The virus, which first appeared in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, has claimed at least 26 lives so far, with more than 800 confirmed cases.

Travelers coming from China to five airports - San Francisco International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Los Angeles International Airport, Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport - will undergo "enhanced health screenings" to ensure that they do not have the virus.

The person showed mild respiratory symptoms and is now in good condition while being cared for in isolation at Duke University Hospital, health officials say. She didn't have close contact with people outside her home after her return, and authorities haven't seen symptoms in others associated with her, Layden said. The first USA case was announced on Tuesday in Snohomish County, Washington - a man who returned from Wuhan earlier this month and was hospitalized with pneumonia that turned out to be the virus.

Still, "CDC believes that the immediate risk to the American public continues to be low at this time, but the situation continues to evolve rapidly", said CDC's Dr. Nancy Messonnier.

US federal and local health authorities are monitoring more than 60 people as they attempt to catch new cases of coronavirus in travelers from China. Older people and those with underlying health conditions are considered the most vulnerable to the virus. It is a member of the coronavirus family that's a close cousin to the deadly SARS and MERS viruses that have caused outbreaks in the past.

Authorities have said this new virus originated in a seafood market in Wuhan that "conducted illegal transactions of wild animals".

And while it's too soon to be sure, Heymann said the new virus appears most unsafe to older adults who have other health problems. "We know that among those infected, one-quarter of patients have experienced severe disease". For now, CDC said it will maintain its screening process at five U.S. airports but will re-evaluate its necessity.

All but one of the 18 deaths have been in Hubei, but there are more than 600 cases, including several overseas.

The virus infects the lungs, and symptoms start with a fever and cough.

Over 2,000 travelers were screened for coronavirus at USA airports. The CDC said it's working to get tests for the virus out to states so they can more quickly identify cases.

More than 2,000 returning travellers had been screened at airports across the US.

Health officials warn patients to call a health care provider before seeking treatment for potential coronavirus symptoms so the appropriate preventive measures can be taken.