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Hundreds Suspected, 12 Confirmed: How CDC Identified U.S. Coronavirus Cases

HealthDay News
by By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter
Updated: Feb 7th 2020

new article illustration

FRIDAY, Feb. 7, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- In a report released Friday, federal public health officials outline how they screened about 650 people in the United States for the new Chinese coronavirus since the outbreak began late last year.

About 30 doctors and nurses with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention responded to inquiries about those individuals and recommended further testing for 256 across 34 different U.S. jurisdictions.

Out of all those suspect cases, only 11 were found to be infected with the coronavirus, the team said in the report. And just two of those cases involved person-to-person transmission.

A 12th coronavirus patient has since been identified in Wisconsin.

"While the chance of person-to-person transmission of the coronavirus still exists in the U.S., the likelihood of sustained transmission remains low," said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. He wasn't part of the team involved with the CDC report.

"It's still possible that we will see additional cases of coronavirus scattered throughout the U.S.," Glatter added. But, "with proper identification and isolation of persons at risk of exposure and infection with coronavirus, along with timely contact tracing, we can effectively reduce the chance of spread of the virus in the community," he said.

As of Friday, the United States had chartered five planes to evacuate more than 840 Americans from Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. The Americans have been or will be quarantined at four military bases for 14 days while they are monitored for symptoms of coronavirus infection, CDC officials said late Thursday.

The coronavirus outbreak started in Wuhan, China, in late December 2019, with a cluster of cases in which people had fallen gravely ill with pneumonia, the CDC report said.

Coronavirus cases worldwide now have surpassed 31,000, and the death toll in China has hit 636, according to The New York Times.

The CDC report said that, by Jan. 31, the CDC had received clinical inquiries from public health officials and health care providers regarding 650 people suspected of being infected with the coronavirus.

The CDC team winnowed those inquiries down to 256 people with symptoms who needed further testing, of whom 210 were actually tested, the report said.

Among those tested, 178 were found through health care settings, 26 through contact tracing of confirmed infected people, and six through airport screening, the report said.

All those tested had some symptoms associated with coronavirus, including 143 with a fever and 189 with a cough or shortness of breath. There were 42 people who required hospitalization, and four were admitted to an intensive care unit.

No one in the United States has died from coronavirus infection, the CDC said. The agency received one inquiry regarding a person who'd died, but they were found to not have been infected with coronavirus.

Travel-related risks were identified for 148 of the people, while 42 had close contact with infected persons, 18 had both travel- and contact-related risks, and two were tested for possible contact.

The report was published in the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about coronavirus.