CDC: First U.S. Human-To-Human Transmission Of Coronavirus Reported In Illinois

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The Centers for Disease Control confirmed Thursday the first U.S. human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus in Illinois.

The CDC said the second case in Illinois is the husband of a Chicago woman, who was the first case of coronavirus in Illinois.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the woman, who is in her 60’s, traveled to Wuhan, China in late December. She flew back to Chicago on Jan. 13 and began experiencing symptoms a few days after arriving home, health officials said. The woman called her doctor after symptoms arose. 

She was admitted to a hospital and placed in isolation, health officials said. Further testing confirmed the virus. She has been reported to be doing well and is in stable condition. The woman remains in isolation at St. Alexius Hospital in Hoffman Estates, primarily for infection control.

The Illinois Department of Public Health has been monitoring individuals who had close contact with the first patient, including her husband for illness. 

Her husband, a man in his 60's, began to show symptoms and was put in isolation at a local hospital. Officials said testing showed he has coronavirus and is reported to be in stable condition.

Public health officials said they investigating where this second patient has visited in the last two weeks and any close contacts, who were possibly exposed. IDPH Dr. Ngozi Ezike said public health and medical officials are taking a cautious approach in identifying and actively monitoring individuals, such as health care workers, who may have been in contact with either of the confirmed cases in an effort to reduce the risk of additional secondary transmission.

Currently in Illinois there are 21 individuals who are considered persons under investigation.

"We could see more cases of individuals who have had close contact, but I still want to reassure the public we are actively monitoring these individuals and implementing transmission precautions to minimize the risk of spread. Again the risk to the general public in Illinois remains low. This person-to-person spread was between two very close contacts, a husband and wife. The virus is not spreading widely across the community at this time," Dr. Ezike said. "We are not recommending people in the general public take additional precautions, such as cancelling activities or avoiding going out of their homes."

Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health Dr. Allison Arwady addressed the media Thursday stating there is no local emergency.

"It is related to our first case patient. Not to spread of novel coronavirus in the general public. We do not have sign of spread in the general public at this time," Dr. Arwady said. 

"Let me reiterate...this news does not change risk to the general public nationally, across Illinois, or in the Chicago area. It is not a local emergency. As I said before, we take emerging viruses very seriously. There are still many unanswered questions about this novel virus and that is why we are pleased to have CDC on the ground really helping as part of this investigation. But I can reassure you, that even with this news, the health risk to the general public from the novel coronavirus remains low at this time."

This is the second case of coronavirus in Illinois and it is believed to be the sixth confirmed case in the U.S. The other cases are in Washington, California and Arizona.

Health officials in Porter County, in Northwest Indiana have been evaulating another patient for the possibility of coronavirus. Test results are expected later Thursday.

The Indiana State Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and the Porter County Health Department have placed the person in isolation out of an abundance of caution, the county health department said in a news release.

Meanwhile, the DuPage County Health Department said it is getting ahold of people who may have been exposed to a Chicago woman who was recently diagnosed with the virus.

Health officials released a statement that said they are engaging in "contact tracing" which is the process of identifying, assessing, and monitoring people who have been exposed to prevent onward transmission. The health department said it will be in direct contact with those people to monitor their health, and if necessary, quickly and safely ensure they receive appropriate medical evaluation and care.

According to the CDC, signs and symptoms of the illness include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. For confirmed 2019-nCoV infections, reported illnesses have ranged from people being mildly sick to people being severely ill and dying. CDC believes at this time that symptoms of 2019-nCoV may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 after exposure. This is based on what has been seen previously as the incubation period of MERS viruses.

The CDC said best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus; however, as a reminder, it always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for 2019-nCoV infection. People who think they may have been exposed to 2019-nCoV should contact your healthcare provider immediately.

China raised the death toll Thursday to 170 and more countries reported infections from a worrisome new virus, including some spread locally, as foreign evacuees from China's worst-hit region returned home to medical tests and even isolation, the Associated Press reported. 

Human-to-human spread of the virus outside China has also occurred in Germany, Japan, Canada and Vietnam, and was a major reason the World Health Organization has convened its committee of experts Thursday to assess whether the outbreak warrants being declared a global emergency. The committee last week had advised the U.N. health agency it was too early to make that pronouncement.

The new virus has now infected more people in China than were sickened there during the 2002-2003 outbreak of SARS, a cousin of the new virus.

The latest figures for mainland China show an increase of 38 deaths and 1,737 cases for a total of 7,736 confirmed cases. Of the new deaths, 37 were in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, and one was in the southwestern province of Sichuan. Outside China, there are 82 infections in 18 countries, according to WHO.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.