By Vivianna Shields & Emily Alvarenga
Signal Staff Writers
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has confirmed the first case of 2019 novel coronavirus in Los Angeles County Sunday.
“A significant number of resources across Los Angeles County are focused on protecting the public’s health at large,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of Public Health. “Currently the risk of local transmission is low, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, expanded upon that during Sunday’s CDC telebriefing, adding that risk depends on exposure.
“Right now, we have a handful of patients with this 2019 novel coronavirus in the United States, but at this time, in the U.S. 2019 novel coronavirus is not spreading in our community,” Messonnier said. “For this reason, we continue to believe that the immediate health risk from the 2019 novel coronavirus to the general American public is low at this time, but the threat is serious and our public health response is aggressive with the aim of protecting the health of Americans.”
Case in Los Angeles
A returning traveler from Wuhan City, China, presented themselves for care once they noticed that they were not feeling well and has been confirmed to have this new strain of coronavirus (2019-nCoV) by the CDC, according to the CDC.
That person is currently receiving medical treatment at a local hospital as Public Health officials work to identify anyone who may have had close personal contact with this individual, including any friends, family members or health care professionals, according to a news release issued Sunday.
Those individuals are then expected to be monitored for signs and symptoms of illness.
Still, CDC officials said that there is no immediate threat to the general public, no special precautions are required and residents are still encouraged to continue to engage in their regular activities.
“Everyone has a role to play here,” Messonnier added. “It’s currently flu and respiratory disease season, and there’s a lot of influenza out there still. The CDC recommends getting a flu shot and taking everyday preventive action to stop the spread of germs.”
Other cases in the U.S.
Four other cases have been diagnosed in the U.S., one each in Arizona, Washington and Chicago, along with a second California case in nearby Orange County. All victims had recently traveled to Wuhan.
Those that have been in contact with these victims are now being closely monitored, CDC officials report.
As of Jan. 26, 14 international locations, including the United States, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Australia, France, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, Thailand, the Republic of Korea and Vietnam, all have at least one confirmed case of the Wuhan coronavirus, the CDC reports.
Origin of coronavirus
Beginning in December 2019, a virus began to spread throughout China from Wuhan City that later became known as the 2019 novel coronavirus, according to a CDC news release. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses.
“Chinese authorities report most patients in the Wuhan City outbreak have been epidemiologically linked to a large seafood and animal market, suggesting a possible zoonotic origin to the outbreak,” the release adds.
On Jan. 23, CDC raised the initial warning from a level 2 to a level 3, which recommends travelers avoid non-essential travel to Wuhan, China.
Symptoms of the novel coronavirus include a runny nose, headache, cough and sore throat. These symptoms resemble the common cold, but often cause pneumonia or bronchitis, the CDC release stated.
Whether or not someone has the virus can be determined through a series of laboratory tests involving respiratory specimens and serum, per the release.
“There are currently no vaccines available to protect you against human coronavirus infection, so wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands, and avoid close contact with people who are sick,” the release added.
Public Health officials are continuing to monitor the situation, and will keep everyone informed as more information becomes available, Ferrer said. “We are urging the public to remain calm, as it is very unlikely that they are at risk of contracting this virus.”