U.S. Evacuates More Americans From City at Center of China's Coronavirus Outbreak

News Picture: U.S. Evacuates More Americans From City at Center of China's Coronavirus Outbreak

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 5, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- About 350 Americans who were evacuated Tuesday from the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in China landed at an Air Force base in California Wednesday morning.

Two planes were involved in this latest evacuation, and some of the Americans on those flights will be quarantined for 14 days at Travis Air Force Base in Northern California, the Associated Press reported.

The first group of evacuees, who were flown out of Wuhan, China, a week ago, have been moved off Travis Air Force Base in anticipation of the new arrivals, the AP reported.

One of the planes was scheduled to fly some of the Americans to the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar near San Diego later Wednesday, where those people will also be quarantined for 14 days, according to the AP.

These are the second and third such flights from Wuhan since the outbreak began. In total, more than 500 Americans have already been evacuated from China, CNN reported.

But U.S. health officials announced there will be several planes carrying passengers from Wuhan that will arrive in three states this week. These locations are Travis Air Force Base, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, and Eppley Airfield in Omaha, Neb.

"These planes will be met by a team of CDC personnel deployed there to assess the health of the passengers," the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement. "The passengers have been screened, monitored and evaluated by medical and public health personnel every step of the way, including before takeoff and during the flight. CDC staff will conduct risk assessments to ensure the health of each traveler, including temperature checks and observing for respiratory symptoms."

Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced on Tuesday that it had fast-tracked a test for the virus in an effort to help speed screening efforts.

Eleven cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the United States, with the first patient released from the hospital on Tuesday, AP reported. A couple in California who were diagnosed with coronavirus on Sunday, believed to be the second person-to-person transmission reported in this country, were moved to the University of California, San Francisco's hospital because their symptoms have worsened.

There are now coronavirus cases in at least 24 countries outside China.

On Sunday, the United States began to bar entry to any foreigners who have recently traveled to China. The move was announced by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar as he declared the coronavirus a "public health emergency."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the American actions were taken because there are "a lot of unknowns" surrounding the virus and its transmission path, The New York Times reported.

"The number of cases have steeply inclined with every day," Fauci noted.

The temporary entry ban applies to foreign nationals, with the exception of relatives of citizens and permanent residents, the Times reported.

U.S. citizens who have recently traveled to the Hubei province of China, where Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, is located, will be quarantined for up to 14 days, U.S. health officials said. U.S. citizens who have recently traveled to other parts of China will face health screenings and voluntary quarantines of up to 14 days.

"This is an aggressive action by the United States, but our goal is to slow this thing down," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the U.S. National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during a Monday media briefing. "We have the opportunity to slow it down before it gets into the United States."

"We felt, scientifically, our recommendation was if we acted now we did have the opportunity to provide additional protection to the United States and Americans," she added. "So, we made an aggressive decision in front of an unprecedented threat that action now would have the biggest potential to slow this thing down."

The WHO has already declared the coronavirus outbreak an international public health emergency.

Messonnier had noted Monday that the U.S. State Department would be bringing more people home from Wuhan.

"Over the weekend, the CDC sent four additional teams to specific Department of Defense locations where those planes will arrive," she said at the time.

"These passengers will be under federal quarantine for 14 days from when the planes left Wuhan, same as the 195 folks" who were evacuated last week.

"If we take strong measures now, we may be able to blunt the impact of the virus on the United States. While we recognize this is an unprecedented action, we are facing an unprecedented public health threat," Messonnier said.

"We are preparing as if this were the next pandemic, but we are hopeful still that this is not and will not be the case," she added. "This is the first time in 50 years that CDC has issued a quarantine order. We would rather be remembered for overreacting than for underreacting."

Meanwhile, Chinese officials said Wednesday that the death toll in that country has hit 490, the Times reported. That exceeds the death total reported in mainland China in the 2003 SARS outbreak, which was 349.

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Chinese health officials have said that the virus is spreading from person-to-person. They have also said they believe the virus can be spread by a person who is not showing symptoms of infection, though some health experts have questioned the veracity of a report in the New England Journal of Medicine last week that said it had found evidence of such transmission in Germany, the Times reported.

Outside China, there have been more than 162 confirmed cases of coronavirus in at least 24 countries. Two deaths, one in the Philippines and one in Hong Kong, have been reported, the Times said.

-- Robert Preidt

MedicalNews
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SOURCES: Feb. 3, 2020, media briefing with: Nancy Messonnier, M.D., director, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; The New York Times; CNN; Associated Press
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