The first cases of a mysterious respiratory illness — what is now known as 2019-nCoV, a form of coronavirus — began in Wuhan, China in late December. Since then, the virus has spread worldwide, leading the World Health Organization to declare a public health emergency, the first since the zika epidemic in 2016.
At first, this coronavirus was contained to China, but Wuhan is a major transportation hub with hundreds of flights leaving and landing from the city of 11 million each day. Soon, as people flew from the area to different countries, the coronavirus reached more countries, including the United States.
As of February 3, there are eleven confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. The first one was found in Everett, Wash., just outside of Seattle, in a man who had recently returned from Wuhan. He was quickly quarantined, as were the next five cases — one in Los Angeles County, Calif., another nearby in Orange County, Calif., one within the Arizona State University community in Scottsdale, Ariz. and two in Chicago, Ill.
The first U.S. cases all occurred in people who had recently traveled to Wuhan. The second Chicago case was different — it marked the first human to human transmission of coronavirus in the U.S. The initial case in Chicago was in a woman in her 60s who had recently traveled to Wuhan, and one week later, the CDC announced that her husband, also in his 60s had contracted the virus from her.
In total, there are more than 17,000 people in Asia who have the virus.
Most are in countries close to China, including Japan, South Korea and Nepal, but France, Italy and the United Kingdom have all also confirmed cases of coronavirus.
Still, the Centers for Disease Control is emphasizing that Americans should not panic — they say the risk of contracting coronavirus is still “low.” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control, said Thursday that anyone who has recently traveled to China or been in close contact with someone who has should “be vigilant about symptoms” and contact their health care provider if they feel sick.
For everyone else, the best prevention methods are the same as those for the flu, which experts have pointed out is far more of a threat right now.
“Our guidance is that at this time of year, the best things you can do are the things that we generally recommend at this time of year to prevent the spread of infectious diseases,” Messionnier said. “Wash your hands, cover your cough, take care of yourself, and keep alert to the information that we’re providing, because we’ll provide new information as it becomes available.”
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