The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention upped its travel warning Monday to a level 3, its highest alert level. American citizens are urged to avoid all nonessential travel to China because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The CDC warning says those who travel should avoid all contact with sick people, animal markets and products that come from animals.
At the same time, the U.S. State Department has issued a level 4 travel warning for the Hubei province, which is where the virus originated. That warning advises no travel to Wuhan or the province.
New data released Monday by the Atlanta-based CDC shows 110 patients now under investigation for possible coronarvirus infection in 26 states.
While five people in four states have been confirmed as Wuhan coronavirus cases, CDC’s director is seeking to calm Americans who might be nervous about the disease.
“We understand people may worry about the new coronavirus,” said Dr. Robert Redfield on Monday. “In today’s connected world, an outbreak anywhere can be a risk everywhere. Risk is dependent on exposure.”
Redfield said the coronavirus isn’t spreading in the U.S. at the moment, and CDC believes the risk to the American public is low.
But “it would not be surprising if person-to-person spread in the United States were to occur,” the Atlanta-based organization said Sunday. “Cases in healthcare settings, like hospitals, may also occur.”
Cases have been reported in Arizona, California, Illinois and Washington state. All of the travelers, according to the CDC, were returning travelers from Wuhan, China, where the virus originated.
The fifth case was reported Sunday in Arizona.
The Georgia Department of Public Health, in consultation with the CDC, is evaluating patient information received from healthcare providers. The state department has not confirmed any cases of coronavirus in Georgia, but also would not say whether any of the 110 cases being tested involve Georgia residents.
The state agency said they would not release information on any cases being tested, only on those confirmed.
The never-before-seen virus has already claimed 81 lives and infected nearly 3,000 Chinese citizens with its pneumonia-like symptoms, according to China’s National Health Commission. The virus, known as 2019-nCoV, was first reported to the World Health Organization on Dec. 31 and has been under investigation since.
On Saturday, China’s leader called the accelerating spread of a new virus a grave situation, as cities from the outbreak’s epicenter in central China to Hong Kong scrambled to stop the spread of the illness.
Locations of confirmed coronavirus cases
President Xi Jinping’s remarks, reported by state broadcaster CCTV, came at a meeting of Communist Party leaders convened on the Lunar New Year holiday and underlined the government’s urgent and ever-expanding efforts to bring the situation under control.
Scientists have linked the disease to a family of viruses known as coronaviruses, which include the deadly SARS and Middle East respiratory syndrome.
The first American patient diagnosed with the disease was in Seattle.
Early on, many of the patients in Wuhan reportedly were linked to a large seafood and animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread.
However, a growing number of patients reportedly have not had exposure to animal markets, and the CDC has confirmed evidence that person-to-person spread is occurring.
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