The disease originated in Wuhan, China, in late December and quickly spread worldwide
The first cases of a mysterious respiratory illness — what is now known as COVID-2019, 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 Feb. 14, there are 15 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. The first one was found in Everett, Washington, just outside of Seattle, in a man who had recently returned from Wuhan. He was quickly quarantined, as were the next 14 cases — eight in California; one within the Arizona State University community in Scottsdale, Arizona; one in Boston; one in Madison, Wisconsin; two in Chicago and one in San Antonio, Texas.
That last case, along with two of the ones in California, occurred in Americans who were evacuated from Hubei province back to the U.S. on flights organized by the state department. All three are in the hospital to monitor their symptoms, and the hundreds of other passengers from their flights are under a federal quarantine for 14 days after they land.
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. This was also how the illness transmitted between a husband and wife in Northern California.
Both of the Chicago patients, along with the man in Seattle, have left the hospital and are recovering at home.
As of Feb. 14, there are 64,460 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide, and 1,384 deaths. All but two of the deaths have occured in mainland China, and the majority of cases — 63,866 — have there as well.
Most of the cases 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 Jan. 30 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.
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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.”