The first US case of person-to-person coronavirus transmission has been recorded in Chicago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Illinois officials confirmed.
The new patient is the husband of a Chinese woman who brought the infection over from Wuhan, officials said Thursday at a press briefing. His wife is being held in isolation at a local hospital.
“Despite the case that we are reporting the first instance of person-to-person transmission in the United States, it is important to note that these two individuals were in close contact,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
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Messonnier called the outbreak “a very serious public health situation” and added that “Moving forward, we can expect to see more cases, and more cases means more potential for person-to-person spread.”
Patients in the five 2019-nCoV cases previously confirmed in the US all contracted the infection in China. As of Wednesday, the CDC was monitoring an additional 160 people across 36 US states. Of those, 68 have tested negative for the virus, while the results for the remaining 92 are still pending.
Thursday’s revelation means the US is now the fifth confirmed country with a direct transmission case of the virus. Since its emergence in China’s Hubei province on December 31, the coronavirus has infected at least 8,130 people in China and another 100 or so elsewhere. At least 100 patients have died.
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The coronavirus is closely related to the SARS vector, which infected 8,100 people across 17 different countries in 2003, killing 774. The much faster pace of coronavirus infections, however, has public health officials in China and across the world concerned.
“Although the numbers outside China are still relatively small, they hold the potential for a much larger outbreak,” said World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, calling the continued rise in the number of infections and direct transmission “most deeply disturbing.”
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