The first U.S. case of the coronavirus spreading from one person to another was reported in Chicago on Thursday, the husband of a woman who caught the disease while in China.
It’s the second case that’s been confirmed in Illinois, and the sixth case in the U.S., since the respiratory virus first started to spread in Wuhan, China.
A Chicago woman who returned from caring for her sick father in China earlier this month was the first local person diagnosed with the illness, health officials reported Friday. The woman, who is in her 60s, traveled to Wuhan, China, in late December and returned to Chicago on Jan. 13. Her spouse, who had not traveled to China, is the second Illinois case and first instance of person-to-person spread in the U.S., the Illinois Department of Public Health said.
Health officials said the man has not attended any mass gatherings or taken the “L” train recently, and is currently sharing details of his activities from the last several weeks. Officials declined to say how many people they’re monitoring for illness who’ve been in contact with the couple but said they are “actively monitoring all close contacts.” The CDC considers close contact to consist of 10 minutes or more of face-to-face contact with a person.
In all, health officials are investigating 21 possible cases of the virus in Illinois.
Shortly after the announcement of the second Chicago case, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a public health emergency.
Despite the news Thursday, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health Dr. Ngozi Ezike said, “We believe people in Illinois are at low risk.”
“This person to person spread was between two very close contacts, a husband and wife,” Ezike said at a news conference. “The virus is not spreading across the community at this time.”
Coronaviruses are often spread through close personal contact, said Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health.
“We know this new patient had close contact with his wife after she began to develop symptoms so it’s not unexpected,” Arwandy said.
DuPage County public health officials said Tuesday they are tracking multiple county residents who may have come in contact with the woman, but none had reported symptoms. The couple lives in Chicago but may have come into contact with people in DuPage County, said Don Bolger, a spokesman for the DuPage County Health Department.
There have been 7,818 cases reported worldwide, mostly in China, and 170 deaths from the illness in China, according to the World Health Organization.
On Wednesday, the U.S. government evacuated 195 Americans from Wuhan. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also advised Americans to avoid all nonessential travel to China.
Symptoms of the virus can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. It’s believed symptoms appear anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure. The CDC has said it’s still unclear how easily the virus spreads from person to person.
Local health officials say it’s not necessary for Chicagoans to stay home or cancel activities amid the news.
More to come.