WASHINGTON (CNN/NBC) – Health officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are investigating after the first case of the coronavirus has been reported in the United States.
On Tuesday, federal health officials confirmed to NBC News that a case of coronavirus has been reported in Seattle. The CDC said the patient is a male in his 30s and is in good condition.
The case comes amid rising fears that the illness could be easily spread between people, and could even be transmitted by ‘super-spreaders,’ or highly infectious patients who have the ability to infect dozens of other people.
So far, officials across the globe say the respiratory virus has left at least six people dead and sickened more than 300. At this point, researchers believe that the number of infections in Wuhan, China is still underestimated, adding that the real number could be closer to 1,700.
One patient is believed to have infected as many as 14 medical staff in one hospital, suggesting the disease can be spread far more easily than previously thought.
Chinese officials in Wuhan, the central city where the coronavirus was first detected, canceled the upcoming Lunar New Year celebrations. Tour agencies have also been banned from taking groups out of Wuhan. Still, hundreds of millions of Chinese residents are expected to begin traveling across the country and overseas in the coming days as the annual Lunar New Year break gets fully underway, compounding concerns of a further spike in cases.
Beyond China, the outbreak has so far spread as far as Thailand, Japan and South Korea. Taiwan discovered the island’s first case at Taoyuan International Airport, Taiwan’s Center for Disease Control said Tuesday.
Last week, the CDC and the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection announced they would implement enhanced health screenings to detect ill travelers heading to the United States.
“To further protect the health of the American public during the emergence of this novel coronavirus, CDC is beginning entry screening at three ports of entry. Investigations into this novel coronavirus are ongoing and we are monitoring and responding to this evolving situation,” said Martin Cetron, M.D., Director of CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine.
Initially, the plan was to begin screening travelers at JFK, LAX, and San Francisco airports. Now, officials say Chicago O’Hare and Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta have been added to the list.
Scientists in Texas, New York and China are also at work on a vaccine, according to Peter Hotez, a vaccine scientist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
“The lesson we’ve learned is coronavirus infections are serious and one of the newest and biggest global health threats,” Hotez told CNN.
On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced it would convene an emergency meeting on Wednesday to determine whether the outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of “international concern” and what recommendations should be made to help manage its spread.