The first U.S. case of the new coronavirus spreading from one person to another, the husband of a woman who caught the disease while in China, was reported in Chicago on Thursday.
It’s the second case that’s been confirmed in Illinois, and the sixth case in the U.S., since the new respiratory virus started to spread in Wuhan, China.
The latest patient, who is in his 60s, had “close contact” and recently reported symptoms, health officials said. He was admitted to an area hospital Tuesday and is in stable condition, said Dr. Ngozi O. Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. He does have “underlying medical conditions” and will remain hospitalized, officials said.
The man’s wife first contracted the virus after she traveled to Wuhan, China – the epicenter of a recent outbreak. She returned to the U.S. on Jan. 13 and later started experiencing symptoms including fever and shortness of breath. She was listed in good condition at a Hoffman Estates hospital and remains stable, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
“This news may raise people’s concerns, but I want to state clearly that this development is something that we have been prepared for,” Allison Arwady, chief medical officer at Chicago Department of Public Health, said at a press conference Thursday. “It’s not totally unexpected that he acquired the virus.”
“Given what we’ve seen in China versus other countries, CDC experts have expected to find some person-to-person spread in the United States,” CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said during Thursday’s telebriefing.
“Based on what we know now, our assessment remains that the immediate risk to the American public is low.”
Public health and medical professionals are taking an aggressive approach in identifying and actively monitoring people who were in contact with both the second patient and his wife in an effort to reduce the risk of additional transmission. A CDC team also remains in Illinois to support those efforts, according to the state.
In the United States so far, with this latest case, there are a total of six confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the CDC. One case is in Arizona, one in Washington state, two in California and two in Illinois. The CDC said Wednesday that 165 people in the United States have been under investigation for the virus. Sixty-eight had tested negative and 92 results were pending.
“If you are a traveler who has recently returned from the impacted area, we want you to be vigilant with the symptoms and signs of this coronavirus,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during the teleconference.
“Wash your hands, cover your cough,” Messonnier said. “For the rest of the American public right now, we understand that folks are concerned.”