The United States has its first confirmed case of a new virus that appeared in Wuhan, China, last month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday. The virus has already sickened hundreds and killed six people in Asia.
The male patient is in isolation at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Washington. He is a resident of Snohomish County in Washington.
The man traveled from Wuhan to Washington, but said he did not attend the animal markets where many of the patients were infected.
Officials are compiling a list of people the patient may have had contact with since his return to the United States. The Wuhan virus can spread person to person, but not nearly as easily as viruses such as measles or influenza.
The CDC is not identifying the patient.
In an unconfirmed case, officials in Santiago, Chile, say that that a man who recently traveled to China has symptoms of the virus. They say the man, not identified, is in an isolation ward awaiting test results.
The CDC also announced on Tuesday that it will start screening passengers flying directly or indirectly from Wuhan to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Chicago O’Hare International Airport.
On January 17, the CDC began screening passengers arriving from Wuhan to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, followed by Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport.
The CDC has raised its travel notice for Wuhan, China, from level 1 to level 2, of three possible levels, according to its website.
On Tuesday morning, the CDC advised travelers to “practice usual precautions,” which is part of its “Watch – Level 1” status. As of Tuesday afternoon, the agency advised travelers to “practice enhanced precautions” and increased the status to “Alert – Level 2.” The highest level, “Warning – Level 3” advises travelers to “avoid nonessential travel.”
Meanwhile, other national health agencies throughout the world have announced stepped up surveillance in an effort stop the spread of the disease. The World Health Organization says it has gone to “full alert mode” to help identify the disease and provide assistance as needed.
WHO scientists say they are studying the new virus but have little so far to report other than to confirm the Chinese assessment that it can be spread from person to person.