A second case of the new infection emerging from China has been discovered in the United States — a woman who returned to Chicago from Wuhan on Jan. 13, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

The State Department and the CDC expanded their advisories against travel to the affected area of China on Friday, warning Americans not to travel to the entire province in which Wuhan is located, Hubei. Advisories issued on Thursday warned against travel to the city only.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, cautioned that the U.S. will likely see more cases and even some domestic spread from imported cases to contacts as this quickly expanding outbreak continues.

advertisement

“This is a rapidly changing situation, both abroad and domestically,” said Messonnier. “We are expecting more cases in the U.S. and we are likely going to see some cases among close contacts of travelers and human-to-human transmission.”

She said so far 63 “persons under investigation” in the U.S. — people with recent travel to Wuhan with respiratory illness — are being assessed. To date 11 of them have been ruled out, having tested positive for other respiratory illnesses.

advertisement

The Chicago woman was not sick when she traveled but began to feel ill a few days after her return. In the time since her return she had contact only with people in her household, health authorities from Illinois said.

The person is in stable condition and doing well, Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said during a news conference organized by the CDC. The woman, in her 60s, is in hospital — not because she needs to be, but for infection control reasons, Arwady said.

She is the second person to bring the new virus, provisionally called 2019-nCoV, back to the United States. The first case, a man who lives in Washington state, was reported on Tuesday. To date there is no indication anyone who was in contact with the man in Washington has become ill, Messonnier said.

The news comes at a time when the number of reported infections in China is climbing rapidly. As of early Saturday, Chinese authorities reported 15 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 41. There are now nearly 1,100 confirmed cases in China.

Chinese authorities, struggling to control the outbreak at a time when much of the country would normally be traveling to celebrate the Lunar New Year, have put a number of cities near the epicenter of the outbreak on lockdown. Roughly 35 million people live in the quarantined cities, near Wuhan, where the virus is thought to have emerged.

The number of cases that have been exported — and the number of countries outside China that have reported cases — continue to grow as well. France reported Friday it had diagnosed two unrelated cases, the first confirmed infections in Europe.

At least 11 countries outside China have reported nearly 30 infections with the virus, which is from the same family as those that cause SARS and MERS.

A new virus has been causing respiratory illnesses in China. Officials are still unclear about how this one will spread between people. There are two ways this outbreak could pan out. Hyacinth Empinado/STAT

Despite the unnerving escalation of the outbreak, the World Health Organization declined on Thursday to declare the event a global health emergency.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general, said the outbreak is an emergency in China, but doesn’t yet constitute a global crisis. “It may yet become one,” he acknowledged.

In a bid to limit the risk of importing cases to the U.S., earlier this week the CDC ordered airlines to redirect all flights from Wuhan to five airports where individualized screening of arriving passengers could be conducted. Those airports were San Francisco, Los Angeles, John F. Kennedy in New York, Atlanta, and Chicago O’Hare.

Both the U.S. cases returned to the country before the screening began. And neither would have been caught by the screening; both only began to feel ill after their return.

Dr. Martin Cetron, director for quarantine and migration at the CDC, said the agency is currently reviewing the entry screening program, because China has halted flights out of Wuhan.

“The concentration of resources and efforts need to be focused on the tremendous work that our state and local partners are doing to rapidly identify cases and contacts and assure that the American health is protected,” Cetron said. “So there will be a balance and a shifting in how we look at entry screening as we go into this new scenario with the travel closures.”

A roundup of STAT’s top stories of the day in science and medicine

Privacy Policy