Inslee and public health officials provide updates on Washington coronavirus case

A new respiratory infection that has killed at least six people and infected hundreds more in Asia has landed in the United States, with the first confirmed case in Snohomish County.

The germ behind what is being referred to as the Wuhan coronavirus has been identified by public health officials as a new type of coronavirus, a group of viruses that cause severe forms of respiratory syndromes.

The infected patient is a male resident of Snohomish County in his thirties. At a press conference on Tuesday afternoon with local public officials as well as Dr. Satish Pillai of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Governor Inslee provided a timeline tracing the man’s travels, when he started experiencing symptoms, and when he sought medical treatment.

 

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From November to January 15th, the man was traveling in China, where he spent time in the city of Wuhan visiting his childhood home.

Reports have indicated that several of the cases likely started at a seafood and poultry market in Wunan.

Of chief concern for health authorities, though, are the cases where transmission occurred between humans.

Thus far, the pattern of transmission started at a market where individuals have been identified to have first acquired the infection. Based on subsequent investigations looking at individuals who haven’t had that market related exposure, there does seem to be some limited human to human transmission. But this is a rapidly evolving situation and we still need to learn more,” said Dr. Pillai.

On January 15th, the man returned through SeaTac airport to his Snohomish residence where he lives alone. The man did not travel on a direct flight from Wuhan to SeaTac. Public health officials have not disclosed the airport at which the man caught his connecting flight to Seattle. The area of Snohomish County in which his home is located was also not disclosed.

He started experiencing symptoms on January 16th and went to be evaluated by his local clinician on January 19th. According to the CDC, symptoms may appear as many as 14 days after initial exposure.

Following the initial evaluation, he was advised to isolate himself at home as a precautionary measure. The next day, the CDC in Atlanta confirmed that medical samples taken from the man indicated that he was carrying the Wuhan coronavirus. He was then hospitalized immediately at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett and placed in an isolation unit, where he will remain for at least the next 48 hours.

Doctors from the hospital confirmed that he was in stable condition as of Tuesday afternoon.

In accordance with a policy developed by the CDC, only five airports in the United States will receive visitors from either direct or linked flights from China. Individuals arriving on these flights will be subject to a screening protocol overseen by the CDC.

While the effort to identify people who may have been subject to transmission is still ongoing, Governor Inslee maintained that the risk level is not high enough to suggest that Washington residents should avoid Snohomish country or the airport. Even still, Dr. Scott Lindquist, Washington state’s epidemiologist, indicated that the questions of what constitutes an exposure to the virus and how long a person is contagious remain in question.

The governor praised the CDC as well as the state and Snohomish County health departments for working together to respond rapidly. Also garnering praise was the patient himself, who sought treatment soon after experiencing symptoms, allowing public health officials ample time to prepare for a possible spread.

This is something we consider to be low risk to the public at large, but we want to be vigilant,” said Dr. Pillai.