Los Angeles And Orange Counties Confirm First Cases Of New Coronavirus

This undated photo shows a microscopic view of the new Coronavirus. (Photo by CDC/Getty Images)

By Robert Garrova, Julia Paskin and Alyssa Jeong Perry

A new and potentially deadly strain of coronavirus has been confirmed in hospitalized patients in Orange and Los Angeles counties, marking the third and fourth confirmed cases in the U.S.

In both cases, health authorities said the patients had traveled from Wuhan, China, where the Chinese government now has a quarantine in place to try to stem the spread of the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed a fifth U.S. case Sunday, saying the individual was diagnosed in Maricopa County, Arizona.

The CDC said all five people in the U.S. had come from Wuhan. It said a total of 100 people are "under investigation" nationwide for possible coronavirus infection.

The agency added that a variety of groups are working on potential vaccines and treatments.

IN ORANGE COUNTY, A MAN IN HIS FIFTIES WHO CAME FROM WUHAN

According to Orange County officials, the patient there —a man in his fifties who arrived from Wuhan at LAX — is currently in isolation in a local hospital and in good condition.

The County Health Care Agency wouldn't say whether the man went through the CDC's enhanced screening at LAX. He sought medical care once he arrived in Orange County.

The man "was provided guidance in order to reduce exposure to the public while awaiting laboratory confirmation from the CDC," the Health Care Agency said in a statement.

The agency is following up with anyone who had close contact with the patient, said Orange County Health Officer Dr. Nichole Quick.

Officials say there's no evidence of local transmission and the current risk to the public remains low.

IN LA, A RETURNING TRAVELER FROM WUHAN

In L.A., authorities described the patient as "a returning traveler from Wuhan City, China."

The patient first received information about the virus while traveling through LAX on a previous trip, according to the L.A. County Department of Public Health.

Then last Wednesday, the patient passed through the airport again with coronavirus symptoms, and reported to health officials.

"The person is currently receiving appropriate care at a local hospital. In order to protect patient privacy/confidentiality, Public Health is not releasing the location," according to the Department of Public Health.

This story will be updated. Check back for details.


WHAT ELSE YOU SHOULD KNOW

  • Orange County's Health Care Agency is reaching out to all individuals who have had close contact with the sick individual. L.A. County officials said they are doing the same.
  • According to the CDC, symptoms of the novel coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath.
  • The CDC recommends people avoid non-essential travel to Hubei Province, China, including Wuhan.
  • If you think you may have coronavirus, health officials recommend you call your doctor or local emergency room before you go in for evaluation.

THE CONTEXT

There are currently about 2,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide. That number is expected to rise. The Orange and L.A. County cases were the third and fourth confirmed cases in the United States.

The outbreak is centered in Wuhan City and the Chinese government has shut down travel there and in surrounding areas. That quarantine is affecting tens of millions of people in China during the country's busy travel season corresponding with the Lunar New Year. The location of the initial outbreak is troubling because Wuhan is a major transportation hub for trains and is also the location of an international airport.

Even though LAX isn't likely to get travelers from Wuhan for the time being, the CDC says it will continue to screen passengers there.

Last week, CDC officials said they were mobilizing an aggressive response to the outbreak. Their goal? Early identification and diagnosis of cases to prevent the spread of the virus here.

One thing not yet clear, according to the CDC, is how easily the virus is transmitted from person to person. Currently, CDC officials say they believe the risk of contracting the virus in the U.S. remains low.

L.A. County Public Health officials are distributing information about the novel coronavirus (Courtesy of L.A. County Department of Public Health)

OTHER CASES IN U.S AND ELSEWHERE

On Friday, a woman in her 60s in Chicago was confirmed to have the virus. On Tuesday, authoritied confirmed a man in his 30s in the Seattle area had been sickened by novel coronavirus. On Sunday, the CDC confirmed a case in Maricopa County, Arizona. Like the Southern California cases, all three had been in Wuhan.

According to our NPR colleagues:

  • China reported 688 new cases on Sunday from the previous day, bringing the country's total number of cases to 1,975, including 56 deaths.
  • At least 36 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed outside China, including in France, Singapore, Vietnam, South Korea, Nepal, Hong Kong and Australia.
  • The U.S. State Department said Saturday that it is pulling government workers and their family members out of Wuhan because of the impacts from the coronavirus outbreak. A U.S. Embassy spokesperson told NPR that "logistical disruptions stemming from restricted transportation and overwhelmed hospitals in the city of Wuhan" contributed to the decision.
  • The State Department this week issued a "Do not travel" advisory for Hubei province.
  • Travel restrictions have been put in place in multiple major cities in China, grounding planes and trains and blocking roads and tunnels. Large public gatherings have been banned, and major tourist attractions, including Beijing's Forbidden City and Shanghai Disneyland, are closed. Health officials are trying to limit the spread of the coronavirus during the country's biggest travel holiday, the Lunar New Year.


HOW WE'RE REPORTING ON THIS

Reporter Alyssa Jeong Perry is covering the L.A. County case. Reporter Robert Garrova is getting the latest on the Orange County case.

WHAT QUESTIONS WE'RE ASKING

  • What steps are public health officials taking to limit transmission?
  • How is the community responding to the outbreak?
  • Which airports did these people travel through? Were they screened?

LEARN MORE

Correction: A previous version of this story said the patient in Orange County is 50 years old. Health officials say he is in his fifties.

A previous version of this story left the word "was" out of the sentence regarding guidance provided to the Orange County patient.

LAist regrets the errors.