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First Travel-related Case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus Detected in the United States

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today confirmed the first case of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in the United States in the state of Washington.

The case of the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has been confirmed in a patient in Seattle, Washington, USA on Tuesday, January 21, 2020. The CDC said that it will begin contact tracing — a process of identification of persons who may have come into contact with an infected person — by sending a team out to Washington to trace the patient’s close contacts to determine whether anyone else has fallen ill. The CDC will be taking preventative actions by screening passengers for the virus at several airports — Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta and O'Hare in Chicago. The CDC will plan to screen passengers who will be arriving from the central Chinese city of Wuhan on Friday for signs of respiratory illness in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. Additionally, all passengers whose flights originated in Wuhan, China will be rerouted to one of those airports for screening.

Coronaviruses are a group of related RNA viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds. In humans and birds, they cause respiratory tract infections that can range from mild to lethal. Mild illnesses in humans include some cases of the common cold (which is also caused by other viruses, predominantly rhinoviruses), while more lethal varieties can cause SARS and MERS.

Coronaviruses vary significantly in risk factors. Some can kill more than 30% of those infected, such as MERS-CoV, and some are relatively harmless, such as the common cold. Coronaviruses can cause colds with major symptoms, such as fever, and a sore throat from swollen adenoids. Coronaviruses can cause pneumonia (either direct viral pneumonia or secondary bacterial pneumonia) and bronchitis (either direct viral bronchitis or secondary bacterial bronchitis). The human coronavirus discovered in 2003, SARS-CoV, which causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), has a unique pathogenesis because it causes both upper and lower respiratory tract infections.


Six species of human coronaviruses are known, with one species subdivided into two different strains, making seven strains of human coronaviruses altogether.

Four human coronaviruses produce symptoms that are generally mild, even though it is contended they might have been more aggressive in the past:

  1. Human coronavirus OC43 (HCoV-OC43), β-CoV

  2. Human coronavirus HKU1 (HCoV-HKU1), β-CoV

  3. Human coronavirus 229E (HCoV-229E), α-CoV

  4. Human coronavirus NL63 (HCoV-NL63), α-CoV

Three human coronaviruses produce symptoms that are potentially severe:

  1. Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (MERS-CoV), β-CoV

  2. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), β-CoV

For more information about the current outbreak in China, click here.

Sources: NBC News, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The World Health Organization, and Wikipedia.


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