In China, the Wuhan virus continues to spread as the first reported case was announced in the U.S. today. The coronavirus has been named for the city in China where it was first identified and where the vast majority of the cases have been so far. At least six people have died from the virus, and hundreds more have been sickened.
The Wuhan virus spreads beyond China
The Wuhan virus was initially tracked to a dirty food market in Wuhan close to one of the main train stations. A number of wild animals were sold for consumption at the market. It’s believed that the first transmission to a human came from a live animal.
Initially, it was thought that the virus could not be spread by human to human contact, but that has since been disproven by the rapid spread of the pneumonia-like illness. Many people who haven’t even been to Wuhan have been taken ill with the virus, both inside and outside of China.
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According to CNN, about 300 cases of the virus have been identified and reported in Hubei province, which is where Wuhan is located. Ten have been reported in Beijing, 14 in Guangdong province, six in Shanghai, five in Zhejiang province, two in Tianjin and one in Taiwan.
The Washington Post adds that more than 70 new cases were reported in China between Monday and Tuesday. More than 60 people in 15 different provinces are being monitored as suspected cases of the virus.
The Wuhan virus has also spread outside China with two cases reported in Thailand, one in Japan, and one in South Korea. Australian officials say they are also monitoring a patient who arrived on a flight from Wuhan with a respiratory infection. Five countries in all have reported cases of the virus.
First U.S. case reported
Citing sources at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CNN initially reported that the agency was expected to announce the first case of the Wuhan virus in the U.S. The infected patient is reportedly in Washington state. It’s unclear whether the patient traveled to China recently, how they might have contracted the illness, and whether they may have spread it to others.
According to CNBC, the CDC has now officially confirmed the first U.S. case of the Wuhan virus. A man in his 30s has been diagnosed with the virus in Snohomish County after traveling there from China. Over the weekend, the agency and Homeland Security started to screen people who traveled from Wuhan, China to the United States.
The World Health Organization is reportedly planning to gather experts in Switzerland on Wednesday to decide whether the Wuhan virus should be declared a global health emergency. The last time the agency declared such an emergency was last year during the Ebola outbreak in the Congo, which claimed more than 2,000 lives.
One concern with the Wuhan virus is the fact that it appears to spread very easily. One patient is believed to have infected at least 14 medical personnel at a hospital—despite the precautionary measures they would have been taking to avoid catching the illness.
What China is doing to protect against the Wuhan virus
Although no travel ban or official quarantine is in place, Chinese officials are discouraging people from traveling to or from the city of Wuhan. Unfortunately, many Chinese are traveling for the Lunar New Year, the most important holiday on the Chinese calendar. The Ministry of Transport estimates that about 400 million people will be traveling for the holiday.
Many people throughout China have bought and started wearing medical masks to prevent the spread of the Wuhan virus. Officials have added infrared thermometers to the airport and train stations in Wuhan to screen passengers for feature. Some hotels in the city are also requiring visitors to take their temperature before they can check in. Group tours traveling outside Wuhan have been restricted.
The first case of the virus was reported on Dec. 31, but a significant uptick in its spread occurred over the weekend when the city held a number of banquets to celebrate the holiday. More than 40,000 families attended the banquets. Wuhan initially planned to move forward with 41 major events scheduled for the holiday, but city officials announced today that those events have been postponed.
Many have been drawing comparisons between the China Wuhan virus and SARS, or the severe acute respiratory syndrome, which sickened more than 8,000 people and claimed nearly 800 lives in 2002 and 2003.