Health Dept.: No Suspected Coronavirus Cases in Puerto Rico
SAN JUAN – There are no confirmed or suspected cases of infection with the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Puerto Rico, the Department of Health said Thursday after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the existence of an outbreak of this virus in Wuhan, a province of Hubei in China, which has resulted in more than 300 people infected in the eastern Asian country, as well as one in the United States.
The CDC confirmed the first case of 2019-nCoV in the United States in the state of Washington. The patient “recently returned from Wuhan, China, where an outbreak of pneumonia caused by this novel coronavirus has been ongoing since December 2019. While originally thought to be spreading from animal-to-person, there are growing indications that limited person-to-person spread is happening. It’s unclear how easily this virus is spreading between people,” the CDC said.
“Although the first case has already been reported in the United States, it is important to emphasize that in Puerto Rico there have been no cases suspected of infection by this new coronavirus,” reads a statement by state epidemiologist Dr. Carmen Deseda.
However, she said, this virus is one of the diseases reportable to the Department of Health, thus it is actively watching it.
“Of the severe infections caused by the coronavirus, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is included among those reported to the Department of Health, so surveillance is maintained. Anyway, in past experiences where there were outbreaks of this disease, no cases were reported in Puerto Rico, but vigilance was still maintained,” the epidemiologist wrote.
The CDC assured it has been proactively preparing for the introduction of 2019-nCoV in the United States for weeks, including:
- First alerting clinicians on January 8, 2020, to be on the look-out for patients with respiratory symptoms and a history of travel to Wuhan, China.
- Developing guidance for clinicians for testing and management of 2019-nCoV, as well as guidance for home care of patients with 2019-nCoV.
- Developing a diagnostic test to detect this virus in clinical specimens, accelerating the time it takes to detect infection. Currently, testing for this virus must take place at CDC, but in the coming days and weeks, CDC will share these tests with domestic and international partners
- On January 17, 2020, CDC began implementing public health entry screening at San Francisco (SFO), New York (JFK), and Los Angeles (LAX) airports. This week CDC will add entry health screening at two more airports – Atlanta (ATL) and Chicago (ORD).
- CDC has activated its Emergency Operations Center to better provide ongoing support to the 2019-nCoV response.
The CDC explained that coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing respiratory illness in people and others circulating among animals including camels, cats and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve and infect people and then spread between people, such as has been seen with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). When person-to-person spread has occurred with SARS and MERS, it is thought to happen via respiratory droplets with close contacts, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread.
“The situation with regard to 2019-nCoV is still unclear. While severe illness, including illness resulting in several deaths, has been reported in China, other patients have had milder illness and been discharged,” the CDC wrote.
Symptoms associated with this virus have included fever, cough and trouble breathing. The confirmation that some limited person-to-person spread with this virus is occurring in Asia raises the level of concern about this virus, but the CDC said it “continues to believe the risk of 2019-nCoV to the American public at large remains low at this time.”
—Cybernews contributed to this report.