Washington Man Becomes 1st in U.S. with Deadly Coronavirus After Trip to China

Airport officials in China and beyond are implementing extra screening processes in light of the coronavirus stemming from Wuhan.
Airport officials in China and beyond are implementing extra screening processes in light of the coronavirus stemming from Wuhan.(CBS News)

A Washington man in his 30s is the first confirmed case of the pneumonia-like virus in the United States.

The United States has its first confirmed case of the deadly coronavirus that has swept its way around Asia and killed at least six people since it emerged last month.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Tuesday that a resident of Snohomish County, Washington, is currently being treated at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett. The man, whose identity was not revealed, returned to Seattle on Jan. 15 after a trip to Wuhan, China, where the pneumonia-like illness originated.

The patient, who is in his 30s, is “doing well” but is hospitalized “out of an abundance of caution,” according to Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

While the illness was originally thought to spread from animal-to-person instead of from person-to-person, the patient reportedly didn’t spend any time in the seafood market that the disease is believed to have originated.

“The risk to the American public is low,” Messonnier continued in an interview with NBC News. “We should expect to see additional cases in the U.S. and certainly around the world.”

The CDC has also began screening passengers at Atlanta’s Heartsfield-Jackson Airport and Chicago’s O’Hare Airport in addition to screening measures implemented last week at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, San Francisco International Airport and Los Angeles’ LAX. All flights arriving from Wuhan will be rerouted to one of the five airports that will undergo extra screening.

China’s National Health Commission and World Health Organization both confirmed that nearly 300 cases of the disease have been reported across mainland China. While many of the cases are limited to the Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, the disease has also spread internationally, killing 6 people across Asia.

The virus presents like pneumonia or bronchitis, with coughing, difficulty breathing and sometimes fever, according to the CDC. The disease is in the same family as SARS and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) — illnesses that have killed hundreds in the past.

It was originally believed to only be spread from animal-to-person, and was linked to a seafood market that also sold wild animals as game food. However, Chinese health officials confirmed Monday that there are cases of human-to-human transmission and health workers have fallen ill.

The CDC advises anyone travelling to Wuhan should avoid contact with sick people, avoid animal markets and dead or living animals and wash their hands frequently.