The deadly virus that has prompted China to issue a travel ban to roughly 35 million people has hit Phoenix. On Sunday, the Arizona Department of Health Services confirmed that "a member of the Arizona State University community" has been diagnosed with the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.
It is the fifth confirmed case of the virus in the United States. The ASU member does not live in university housing, is not severely ill, and is currently in isolation to keep the disease from spreading, ADHS said. The infected person had recently returned from traveling to Wuhan, China, which is where the viral outbreak began.
So far, over 2,700 people have been infected with the virus and at least 80 people have been killed by it. The virus causes symptoms similar to the flu and respiratory illness, including a runny nose, cough, sore throat, fever, difficulty breathing, and a general feeling of being unwell, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The symptoms generally appear within two to 14 days of exposure.
Both ADHS and the Maricopa County Department of Public Health are currently investigating any close contacts the infected person in Maricopa County had with others to see if anyone else may have been exposed to the virus. The 2019 Novel Coronavirus can be spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. There is no vaccine for the virus.
"Any individuals who have been identified as having been exposed will be contacted directly," a press release from ADHS states. "These individuals will be monitored for fever and respiratory symptoms in collaboration with public health and the university."
Those considered at risk of contracting the virus include people who have recently traveled to Wuhan, China, or have come into close contact with a person already infected with the virus. All five people in the United States who have been diagnosed with the virus had recently traveled to Wuhan. The other cases occurred in California, Illinois, and Washington.
“While the immediate risk of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus to the general public is believed to be low at this time, ADHS and our county public health partners will continue to actively monitor for the disease,” said Dr. Cara Christ, ADHS director. “There are simple daily precautions that everyone should always take to prevent the spread of diseases.”
The CDC expects more cases to be identified in the coming days, including more cases in the United States. The CDC says "the immediate health risk from the 2019-nCoV to the general American public is considered low at this time," yet the CDC is still monitoring the situation closely and taking "proactive preparedness precautions."
Speaking on KTAR News 92.3 FM, Christ said the risk of the illness spreading remains minimal despite the fact that there is now a confirmed case in Arizona.
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“The general public who hasn’t traveled to China at this point or is in close contact with somebody who is confirmed or under investigation for coronavirus, the risk to get it is relatively low at this time,” Christ said. Christ also said that the infected person from ASU has a mild case and has not needed to be hospitalized.
To prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, the CDC recommends:
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• 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.
The CDC also states that people who think they may have been exposed to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus should contact their health care providers immediately. ADHS states that anyone who has recently traveled to Wuhan and feels sick with a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing should seek medical care, avoid contact with others, not travel while sick, wash hands frequently and thoroughly, and always cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.