A Santa Clara County man is the first confirmed Bay Area case of the novel coronavirus, which has killed 213 people in China since it first spread to humans in December, county public health officials announced Friday.
The man, whose name and city of residence were not released, traveled to Wuhan, China and Shanghai before returning home to Santa Clara County via the San Jose Mineta International Airport on Jan. 24, according to Dr. Sara Cody, the county’s Public Health Officer and the head of the Santa Clara County Public Health Department. The man didn’t begin to exhibit symptoms until after he returned home, Cody said at a Friday afternoon press conference.
“This one case, in fact, does not raise the risk to the general public,” Cody told a gathering of news media at the county’s Public Health Laboratory Friday afternoon. “He has been self-isolating at home and did not leave home at all except to seek medical care.”
County and state health officials, in cooperation with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are now in the process of contacting everyone the man may have encountered since his return home, including his fellow airline passengers, Cody said. In addition to keeping him at home and away from people until he’s no longer considered contagious, Cody said that anyone he was in close contact with will also be kept isolated in their own homes for 14 days.
In an effort to easy people’s fears over the spread of the virus, Cody noted that far more people get sick and die from the flu in the U.S. — 36,000 annually — than have so far been afflicted by the coronavirus, which to date hasn’t resulted in any fatalities in the country. She also said there is no evidence at the moment that the virus is circulating in the county.
Still, she acknowledged that there is a lot health officials still don’t know about the coronavirus.
Also on Friday, Alex Azar, head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, declared a public health emergency due to the spread of the virus and said that anyone who had traveled to Hubei Province in China, where Wuhan is located, within the past 14 days, will be subject to a quarantine of up to 14 days. Anyone who was in the rest of mainland China will be required to undergo health screenings at one of seven airports: San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Atlanta, Chicago and Honolulu.
Also, foreign citizens who have been in China and “pose a risk” of transmitting the virus, except those who are immediate family of American citizens, will be denied entry into the U.S.
Starting next week, the number of weekly flights to China from San Francisco will drop from 90 to 55 due to the coronavirus outbreak.
This week, Southern China Airlines suspended its three weekly nonstop flights after Chinese authorities closed the airport in Wuhan, the outbreak’s epicenter, according to San Francisco International Airport spokesman Doug Yakel. Next week, United Airlines will suspend all flights to China from SFO, with the exception of a single daily flight to Hong Kong, Yakel said.
The virus has yet to affect the San Jose Mineta International Airport, which hosts three flights a week from Beijing on Hainan Airlines and one per day from Tokyo Narita Airport on All Nippon Airways, according to airport spokesman Scott Wintner.
Oakland International Airport, which has no direct flights to or from China, is not affected.
The spread of the virus has prompted airlines around the globe to curtail or cancel flights since it first came to international attention in December. Delta and American airlines both announced this week that they would suspend all flights to China, as have several international carriers, including Air France and British Airways.
The U.S. State Department on Thursday issued a “Do Not Travel” alert for all of China and the World Health Organization declared an international public health emergency in an effort to combat the spread of the virus. On Friday, the CDC’s website listed the number of positive cases in the U.S. at six, with 121 cases awaiting lab results.
Earlier Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website listed the number of positive cases in the U.S. at six, with 121 cases awaiting lab results.
The Santa Clara County case brings the total number of U.S. cases to seven. The virus, which presents with flu-like symptoms, is thought to have spread from animals to humans, perhaps at a large seafood and animal market in Wuhan, China.
Since first appearing, the virus has sickened at least 9,692 people in China, killing 213, according to the National Health Commission of the People’s Republic China. The commission also reported 4,812 new suspected cases, bringing the total number of suspected infections to 15,238. The World Health Organization reported Thursday that there were 82 confirmed cases in 18 countries outside of China.