A close contact of one of the patients in the U.S. with coronavirus has been infected with the illness, the first evidence that the new virus has spread person-to-person in this country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.
The new patient lives with a Chicago woman in her 60s who was diagnosed after returning last month from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak that's now sickened upward of 8,000 people.
Six people have now been diagnosed with the new coronavirus in the U.S., two each in Illinois and California, and one each in Arizona and Washington state.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the outbreak of the new coronavirus spreading quickly across China a global health emergency — a rare designation the agency gives disease threats that pose an international risk.
The decision Thursday came as the number of people diagnosed with the 2019-nCoV virus has skyrocketed to more than 8,200, surpassing the SARS case toll. There are also now people in at least 18 other countries with the virus.
“Over the past few weeks we have witnessed the emergence of a previously unknown pathogen which has escalated into an unprecedented outbreak,” WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
Just a week ago, the agency determined the formal “public health emergency of international concern,” or PHEIC, declaration, was premature.
The U.S. State Department is warning Americans not to travel to China, issuing its most serious travel advisory one day after the World Health Organization declared the Wuhan coronavirus to be a global health emergency. The virus has spread to at least 22 countries, and more than 200 people in China have died.
Americans who are already in China "should consider departing using commercial means," the State Department said Thursday night. The advisory for China now stands at "Level 4: Do Not Travel" — the same category the U.S. uses for Yemen, Libya and South Sudan.
Two major U.S. airlines are halting all flights to and from China's mainland, citing the State Department advisory. American Airlines says its operations are now suspended and will remain on hold through March 27. Delta says it will stop flying to China after a final flight on Feb. 3, and it won't resume operations until after April 30. Delta's last return flight from China will take off on Feb. 5.
The White House holds a press briefing with members of President Trump's coronavirus task force.
The Trump administration on Friday declared the coronavirus a public health emergency in the United States, and announced that certain foreign nationals deemed to pose a risk of transmitting the disease will temporarily be denied entry to the U.S. Some returning American citizens potentially at risk will be quarantined.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that President Donald Trump signed an order for the U.S. to deny entry to any foreign nationals who have traveled in China within the past two weeks, aside from the immediate family of U.S. citizens.
Azar, speaking to reporters at the White House, also said that any U.S. citizens who have been in China’s Hubei province — home of Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus — within the last 14 days “will be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine to ensure they’re provided proper medical care and health screening.” Also starting Sunday, U.S. citizens returning from other parts of mainland China will also face screenings and two weeks of monitoring and self-quarantine.
The risk to the American public is “low” at this time, said Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Azar called the measures “fairly incremental” and “appropriate, preventative steps.” Yet, officials said they wanted to ensure it would remain a low risk to Americans.
Can wearing a medical face mask protect you against the new coronavirus? It's a question many people, including pet owners who are putting canine face masks on their dogs, are asking.
If it's a regular surgical face mask, the answer is "no," Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious-disease specialist at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, told Live Science.
A more specialized mask, known as an N95 respirator, can protect against the new coronavirus, also called 2019-nCoV. The respirator is thicker than a surgical mask, but Schaffner doesn't recommend it for public use, at least not at this point.
That's because, in part, it's challenging to put these masks on and wear them for long periods of time, he said.
Specialists receive retraining annually on how to properly fit these respirators around the nose, cheeks and chin, ensuring that wearers don't breathe around the edges of the respirator. "When you do that, it turns out that the work of breathing, since you're going through a very thick material, is harder. You have to work to breathe in and out. It's a bit claustrophobic. It can get moist and hot in there," Schaffner said.