SHORELINE, Wash. – Public health officials gave another briefing on the latest response to the country’s first case of novel coronavirus in Washington.
The man diagnosed with the illness is in his 30s and lives in Snohomish County.
He is currently getting treatment in a special isolation unit at Providence Medical Center in Everett. The hospital's chief medical officer, Dr. Jay Cook, said the man is resting comfortably and doesn’t appear to be in distress. A group of volunteer nurses are caring for him, and they believe he is making good signs of progress to eventually return home.
As of last check, there are 16 people who came into close contact with the person who is infected, according to Dr. Chris Spitters, the interim health officer for Snohomish Health District .
Health workers are monitoring the 16 people for symptoms daily over the phone. While their relationship to the patient has not been disclosed, they are located in King and Snohomish counties.
Health officials say the risk to the general public is low.
“Coronavirus illness that we know of is really spread by droplet,” said state Secretary of Health John Wiesman. “As we said yesterday, you essentially have to be within contact of somebody within six feet and they have to actually have enough contact with you that droplets are coming on to you.”
Dr. Satish Pillai, a doctor with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is working alongside public health workers at the Snohomish Health District offices.
On the national front, the CDC has activated its emergency operations center. It includes these task forces: a Global Migration Task Force, Medical Care and Countermeasures Task Force and an Epidemiology and Surveillance Task Force.
“The [coronavirus] test is currently being performed at CDC Atlanta and the goal is in the upcoming weeks to be able to distribute that to the public health laboratories so that testing can occur as close as possible to potential persons under investigation,” said Dr. Pillai.
Pillai said the CDC continues to closely monitor the situation and is working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) to support its partners internationally, and domestic state and local partners.
A Travel Health Alert has been increased to Level 2, which means to practice increased precaution for people who may be traveling to Wuhan, China, in particular for those who are elderly or with underlying health conditions.
Travel in and around Wuhan has been shut down, according to news outlets in China. That’s where the pneumonia outbreak first started in late December.
As of Wednesday night, at least 17 people have died and nearly 600 people are infected in Asia, mostly in Wuhan.
The CDC is screening people who have a recent travel history to Wuhan at five major U.S. airports in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta.
People who have recently traveled to Wuhan will only be allowed into the U.S. through the five airports currently screening for signs of illness.
On Wednesday, the WHO held an emergency committee meeting to determine if the outbreak is a public health emergency of international concern that requires a globally interconnected response. That conversation will continue on Thursday.
A call center has been activated in Snohomish County for residents and businesses. You can call (425) 388-5088 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. if you have questions.