Suspected coronavirus case in Texas; China expands lockdowns to 25M people

(AP) - On Thursday, a Texas A&M student who had recently traveled to Wuhan, China was examined for a suspected case of coronavirus, The New York Times reported.

Chinese travelers are taking precautions such as wearing face masks to pretect themselves from a new coronavirus during travel for Lunar New Year. (Source: CNN)

University officials said the immediate health risk to people on campus was low. The student is isolated at his home while additional testing is done to confirm the respiratory illness.

If confirmed, it would be the second case of coronavirus discovered in the U.S. A man in his 30s in Washington was said to be in good condition following his diagnosis; he also had recently traveled to central China.

The World Health Organization says a viral illness in China that has sickened hundreds of people is not yet a global health emergency.

WHO issued its evaluation after Chinese authorities moved to lock down three cities earlier in the day and canceled major events in the capital, Beijing, during the Lunar New Year holiday period to try to contain the new virus.

The United Nations health agency based the decision after independent experts spent two days assessing information about the spread of the newly identified coronavirus.

Didier Houssin, the chair of the emergency advisory committee, said, “It’s too early to consider this as a public health emergency of international concern,” but noted the panel "was very divided, almost 50-50.”

Meanwhile, Chinese authorities are locking down three cities that are home to more than 25 million people.

Meanwhile, Chinese authorities are locking down three cities that are home to more than 25 million people.

Experts admit, however, that the measures’ potential for success is uncertain.

At least eight cities have been shut down, all of them in central China’s Hubei province, where the illness has been concentrated.

Normally bustling streets were eerily quiet. Masks were common.

Major public events were canceled, including traditional temple fairs popular during the Lunar New Year.

The first death was confirmed outside Hubei, but the vast majority of cases around China and abroad still have ties to Wuhan, the Hubei provincial capital where the illnesses began last month.

The train station and the airport in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, are shut down, and bus, ferry and subway services have been halted.

China’s National Health Commission says the number of cases of a new respiratory virus has risen to 830 with 25 deaths.

The update Friday morning also confirmed the first death outside the central province of Hubei.

The health commission in Hebei, a northern province bordering Beijing, said an 80-year-old man died after showing symptoms upon his return from a two-month stay in Wuhan to see relatives.

The open-ended lockdowns are unprecedented in size, embracing more people than the population of New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago combined.

World Health Organization country representative Gauden Galea tells The Associated Press that closing off a city of that size to try to stem an outbreak is new to science and that it’s too early to gauge results. He commended the city’s health workers and said he found them optimistic but cautious.

The illness comes from a new coronavirus that experts say affects the respiratory tract and may be mutating.

The first cases were linked to a seafood market in Wuhan, suggesting animal-to-human transmission, but the illness is now thought to also be spread between humans.

Typical symptoms include a runny nose, cough, sore throat, headache and fever, which can last a few days.

Other cases of the disease have been reported in Thailand, the United States, Japan and South Korea. One case was confirmed Thursday in Hong Kong after one was earlier confirmed in Macao. Most cases outside China were people from Wuhan or who had recently traveled there.

Health officials in the U.S. said Wednesday they are actively monitoring 16 people who came into close contact with the traveler to China who became the first U.S. resident with the virus.

The man, identified as a Snohomish County, Washington, resident in his 30s, was in good condition and wasn’t considered a threat to the public.

The hospitalized man had no symptoms when he arrived at the Seattle-Tacoma airport last week, but he started feeling ill. He had traveled to China in November, flying home to Washington state Jan. 15 before the start of U.S. airport screening.

Many places in the U.S. and overseas have adopted screening measures at airports out of concern about a global outbreak similar to SARS, another coronavirus that spread from China to more than a dozen countries in 2002-2003.

The SARS outbreak killed about 800 people, but it’s unknown yet if this new illness could be as bad.

Asian shares reversed early gains as health authorities around the world move to monitor and contain the virus. Stock benchmarks dropped in Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Copyright 2020 Associated Press. Gray Media Group, Inc., contributed to this report. All rights reserved.