INDIANAPOLIS — The first case of a new coronavirus that originated in China has been documented here in the United States.
It’s a virus almost identical to the SARS outbreak in 2002, which killed hundreds of people, and MERS in 2012. The virus was found in a patient in Washington State this week.
“We are now tracing the close contacts of that individual to make sure they are not showing any symptoms,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “While this is a potentially serious public health issue, it’s one for which we have the playbook and we will keep ratcheting up our controls as appropriate in close consultation with President Trump.”
Now that a case of the newest coronavirus has been found in the U.S, major airports, such as Chicago O’Hare, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Los Angeles are now screening all passengers who have traveled in from the Wuhan region of China.
“I think they’re doing the right thing,” said Mary Kay Foster, an IU Health Special Pathogens Program Manager, to WISH-TV. “This is a big thing, a big plus for us. There’s always a little bit of fear anytime you have a new virus where you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
This is the seventh known virus from the same family of coronaviruses that is deadly to humans. No human cases or deaths from coronaviruses have ever documented in Indiana, but other coronavirus strains have decimated the pig population as well as killed many domestic cats.
“In a way, it’s like deja vu; we’ve seen this before,” said Andy Mesecar, head of biochemistry at Purdue University and deputy director for the university’s Center for Cancer Research.
Mesecar said the new virus is 99.8-percent the same as SARS. He said in 2004 so many people died from SARS because China was not very transparent about the details of cases it documented. This time around they are much more cooperative.
“That’s a huge advancement from when we were in 2004, 2005 when we didn’t understand a lot about this virus,” he added. “Now we do understand quite a lot about it.”
The Centers for Disease Control said the new outbreak is a serious public health concern, and while everyone believes new cases are likely, the immediate health risk is low.
(PHOTO: BSIP/Getty Images)