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US confirms second case of China virus, 50 under investigation

The contagion has so far claimed 26 lives in China, sickened hundreds and has spread across several Asian countries as well as the US.

FILE: Passengers wear protective masks to protect against the spread of the Coronavirus as they arrive at the Los Angeles International Airport, California, on 22 January 2020. Picture: AFP

WASHINGTON – A woman in Chicago in her sixties was Friday confirmed as the second patient on US soil infected with a deadly new virus originating in China, health officials said, with 50 other suspected cases under investigation.

The contagion has so far claimed 26 lives in China, sickened hundreds and has spread across several Asian countries as well as the US.

"I'm pleased to report she is clinically doing well and is in stable condition," said Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health of the new patient.

Nancy Messonier, senior official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said the agency had so far tested 63 samples from patients across 22 US states for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

Eleven were found to be negative and two positive, and the CDC was working to make diagnosis kits more nationally available. At present, the testing is occurring at the agency's headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Chicago patient had traveled to Wuhan in late December before returning to the US on 13 January, Arwady said, a few days before health screenings began at major airports for travelers originating from the central Chinese city that is at the center of the outbreak.

She began experiencing symptoms and called her health care providers, and was later admitted to hospital and placed in isolation.

"She has not taken public transportation, have not attended any large gatherings and, she has not had extended close contact with anyone outside her home since returning from China," added Arwady.

The US confirmed its first case of the infection earlier this week, a man in his thirties from Washington state who had also travelled to Wuhan recently and also reported himself to authorities after developing mild symptoms.

Neither of the cases were detected by the airport screenings that began on 17 January, said CDC official Martin Cetron, and both patients had no symptoms or fever when they first arrived in the US.

China has placed a travel ban across a vast region encompassing 13 cities and more than 40 million people, and the US was now "re-evaluating" its approach of carrying out airport screenings, added Cetron.

The previously unknown virus has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed hundreds across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

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