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CDC to screen at three US airports for signs of new virus from China

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A second person has died from a new SARS-like virus in China
It’s a highly unusual step. The last time the CDC did routine passenger health screening was during the 2014 Ebola outbreak, according to Dr. Martin Cetron, director of the CDC’s division of global migration and quarantine.
“I’ve been here since 1996, and that’s the only other time we’ve ever done this — for Ebola,” Cetron said.
The screenings at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport will start tonight, and screenings at San Francisco International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport will begin Saturday. The CDC will look for symptoms such as coughing and difficulty breathing and check temperatures of each passenger with an infrared thermometer.
The CDC took these steps after travelers from Wuhan recently arrived in Thailand and Japan infected with the new virus. There have been two cases in Thailand and one in Japan.
“Considering global travel patterns, additional cases in other countries are likely,” the World Health Organization stated in a press release Thursday.
Last year, more than 60,000 passengers flew into the United States from Wuhan, a city 700 miles south of Beijing. The vast majority flew into the three airports where the checks will take place, according to the CDC.
January is the peak travel season from China to the United States because of the Chinese Lunar New Year, Cetron said.
Cetron described the airport screenings as part of a set “proactive preparedness precautions.”
“We believe the current risk to this virus is low,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said at a press conference on Friday. “For families sitting around the dinner table tonight, this is not something they need to worry about.”
At this point, it appears most people caught the virus directly from animals, and the infection does not spread very easily from person to person.
The risk of a global pandemic is growing -- and the world isn't ready, experts sayThe risk of a global pandemic is growing -- and the world isn't ready, experts say
“This is not a time for people to freak out and be overly concerned,” Cetron said. “This is a time for vigilance and awareness.”
He added that much more common illnesses, such as the flu, are “much bigger threats” to Americans than the new virus from China.
“I’m fully aware that the unknown is more of a source of anxiety than that which is already defined,” he said. “But we should not freak out.”

What we know about the new virus

So far, two people in China have died from this new virus, officially called the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. Some 45 people in China have become infected. Some have developed pneumonia.
Coronaviruses, such as SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, are common in many species of animals, including camels and bats. Sometimes — but rarely — they evolve and infect humans as well.
China's new SARS-like virus has spread to Japan, but we still know very little about itChina's new SARS-like virus has spread to Japan, but we still know very little about it
Chinese health authorities have reported that most of the patients in Wuhan had visited a large seafood and animal market. However, some patients in the outbreak reportedly had not been to animal markets, which suggests that “some limited person-to-person spread may be occurring,” according to the CDC.
At least for now, that spread appears to be quite limited. Cetron said it’s “reassuring” that Chinese authorities report that no health care workers who’ve cared for the patients have become infected, and that some 700 other contacts of patients have also not become ill.
“This isn’t anywhere near in the same category as measles or flu,” Cetron said. Those two infections spread easily from person to person.
SARS Fast FactsSARS Fast Facts
To learn more about this new virus, health authorities are taking a close look at SARS.
In 2003, SARS spread to more than two dozen countries in Asia, Europe, North America and South America. Worldwide, more than 8,000 people became sick and 774 died. In the United States, there were 29 SARS cases and no deaths, according to the CDC.
SARS did spread person to person through close contact such as kissing, sharing utensils or talking to someone within 3 feet.
Cetron emphasized that this new virus may be different from its cousin and behave in unexpected ways.
“We have to have humility and appreciate that it may be different. We can’t just assume that what we know from previous viruses will always apply,” he said.

New screening procedures

Cetron said he expects that “the vast majority” of passengers arriving from Wuhan will be healthy. CDC will give them information in English and Mandarin about what symptoms to look for over the next two weeks.
After further investigation, travelers that are symptomatic will be sent to local hospitals that work with the CDC.
Cetron said the symptoms of the new virus are so common that he expects the screenings will catch many more people with the flu or other winter viruses than with the new coronavirus.
If it turns out someone does have the new virus, they’ll be isolated in the hospital.
He added that while there are still many questions about this new virus — its incubation period, for example, or how easily it spreads from person to person — the progress on it in such a short time has been impressive, including a sequencing of the virus’ genome.
“It’s quite remarkable to me that from a cluster of pneumonia detected just a little over a month ago in Wuhan, China, we have fully sequenced the virus and have some diagnostic capability to test for it,” he said.

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Another presumptive case of COVID-19 confirmed in Toronto | News – Daily Hive

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Ontario health officials announced a fourth presumptive case of the novel coronavirus in the province Sunday, bringing the total number of cases Canada has seen to 10.

The latest patient is a woman who arrived in Canada from China on February 21. That same day, she followed advice from Telehealth Ontario and went to North York General Hospital because she had an intermittent cough.

Her illness was mild, and after being tested for COVID-19 she was discharged and is now self-isolated at home.

Ontario’s lab returned a presumptive positive test for the virus Sunday, and further testing will be done at the national lab in Winnipeg to confirm that result.

“Because of all the proper protocols and procedures that are in place to contain this virus and exposure to others was limited, I want to assure the public that the risk to Ontarians remains low,” said Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

The woman wore a mask on her flight back to Toronto, and has not been in touch with many people since she returned.

Right now, this woman is the only known active case of COVID-19 in Ontario. The first three patients who all returned from China earlier this year have recovered and cleared the virus from their bodies.

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[Wuhan Woman With No Coronavirus Symptoms Infects 5 Relatives Revealing New Extent of Challenge] – Mash Viral

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China: A 20-year-old Chinese woman from Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, traveled 400 miles(675 km) north to Anyang where she infected five relatives, without ever showing signs of infection, Chinese scientists reported on Friday, offering new evidence that the virus can be spread asymptomatically.

The case study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, offered clues about how the coronavirus is spreading, and suggested why it may be difficult to stop.

“Scientists have been asking if you can have this infection and not be ill? The answer is apparently, yes,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, who was not involved in the study.

China has reported a total of 75,567 cases of the virus known as COVID-19 to the World Health Organization (WHO) including 2,239 deaths, and the virus has already spread to 26 countries and territories outside of mainland China.

Researchers have reported sporadic accounts of individuals without any symptoms spreading the virus. What’s different in this study is that it offers a natural lab experiment of sorts, Schaffner said.

“You had this patient from Wuhan where the virus is, traveling to where the virus wasn’t. She remained asymptomatic and infected a bunch of family members and you had a group of physicians who immediately seized on the moment and tested everyone.”

According to the report by Dr. Meiyun Wang of the People’s Hospital of Zhengzhou University and colleagues, the woman traveled from Wuhan to Anyang on January 10 and visited several relatives. When they started getting sick, doctors isolated the woman and tested her for coronavirus. Initially, the young woman tested negative for the virus, but a follow-up test was positive.

All five of her relatives developed COVID-19 pneumonia, but as of February 11, the young woman still had not developed any symptoms, her chest CT remained normal and she had no fever, stomach or respiratory symptoms, such as cough or sore throat.

Scientists in the study said if the findings are replicated, “the prevention of COVID-19 infection could prove challenging.”

Key questions now, Schaffner said, are how often does this kind of transmission occur and when during the asymptomatic period does a person test positive for the virus.

Get the best of News18 delivered to your inbox – subscribe to News18 Daybreak. Follow News18.com on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Telegram, TikTok and on YouTube, and stay in the know with what’s happening in the world around you – in real time.

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SARS lessons help Canada prep for COVID-19, but hospital capacity a worry – Nanaimo News Bulletin

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Canadian medical experts say the country’s already overstretched emergency rooms would find it difficult to cope if a true outbreak of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, were to take hold in Canada.

So far, the virus has been relatively contained to mainland China, thanks in part to one of the largest quarantines in modern history.

“We must not look back and regret that we failed to take advantage of the window of opportunity that we have now,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, said in a message to all the world’s countries Friday.

The risk of contracting the virus in Canada right now is extremely low, and public health officials have been lauded for their efforts to detect and isolate the nine cases confirmed in the country so far.

The hundreds of patients across the country who have tested negative for the virus are also a sign that containment efforts are working as they should.

But Canada’s most recent case in British Columbia has raised fears about where and how the disease is being transmitted abroad. Unlike others who’ve imported the virus from China or from people who have recently been to China, the woman in her 30s contracted the illness while in Iran.

“Any imported cases linked to Iran could be an indicator that there is more widespread transmission than we know about,” said Canada’s chief medical officer Dr. Theresa Tam Friday.

Canada has taken major steps to prevent the kind of shock that befell Ontario during the outbreak of the coronavirus known as SARS in 2003 that led to 44 deaths. Creating the Public Health Agency of Canada, which Tam heads, is one of them.

The country is now better co-ordinated, has increased its lab-testing capabilities and is prepared to trace people’s contacts to find people who might have caught a contagious illness without knowing it.

But once the number of incoming cases reaches a critical mass, the approach must change, according to infectious-diseases physician Dr. Isaac Bogoch of Toronto’s University Health Network.

He likens the response to trying to catch fly balls in the outfield: as the number of balls in the air increases, they become harder and harder to snag.

READ MORE: Woman in Fraser Health region confirmed as sixth COVID-19 case in B.C.

“Every health care system has limits,” Bogoch says. “The question is, if we start getting inundated with cases, how stretched can we get?”

Many emergency-room doctors argue Canada’s ERs are already as stretched as they can get and are worried about what would happen if they suddenly had to start treating COVID-19 cases en masse.

From the public-health perspective, the greatest challenge may be as simple communicating across all parts of the health system across the country, said Dr. Jasmine Pawa, president of the Public Health Physicians of Canada.

“We cover a very wide geographic area,” she said, though she added that Canada has made great strides over the course of the SARS experience and the H1N1 flu outbreak in 2009.

Dr. Alan Drummond of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, who works at the hospital in Perth, Ont., says he doesn’t want to fearmonger, especially considering all the lessons Canada has learned from past outbreaks, but the reality of life in the ER gives him pause.

“Our day-to-day experience in crowded hospitals, unable to get the right patient in the right bed on a day-to-day basis … makes us really question what the integrity of our health-care system would be like in a major severe pandemic,” Drummond says.

He envisions that a disease like COVID-19, if it spread widely, would have a major impact, including the possibility of cancelled surgeries and moving stable patients out of hospitals who would otherwise stay.

“I think there would have to be hard decisions made about who lives and who dies, given our limited availability by both speciality and (intensive-care) beds and we would probably see some degree of health-care rationing,” he says.

The problem may be even more pronounced because of Canada’s aging population, he said. The virus tends to hit older people harder, according to observations made in China and abroad, and is also particularly dangerous for people with other health problems.

Older people also tend to stay admitted in hospital beds even when they are in relatively stable condition because of a lack of long-term-care beds across the country.

That keeps emergency rooms from being able to move acute patients out of the ER and into those beds, limiting hospitals’ capacity to handle new cases.

Tam agreed Friday that hospital capacity is a “critical aspect” of Canada’s preparedness for a potential coronavirus outbreak, but said even very bad flu seasons can have a similar effect on emergency rooms.

“If we can delay the impact of the coronavirus until a certain period, when there’s less influenza for example, that would also be very helpful,” she said.

She also suggested people who are concerned about the possibility that they’re developing COVID-19 symptoms should call ahead to a hospital so they can make proper arrangements for containment and isolation.

Canada is doing its best, along with every other country in the world, to seize this time of relative containment and plan ahead, Tam said.

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

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