Public health officials reported Feb. 11 they are awaiting results on one patient in King County possibly infected with the deadly coronavirus although risk of catching the virus in the area appears low.
According to the Washington state Department of Health, 434 people are under public health supervision for the coronavirus. Snohomish County reported the first confirmed case in the United States — a man traveling from Wuhan City where the disease originated. The Washingtonian was quarantined, but ultimately released.
So far, the coronavirus is believed to have killed more than 1,000 people in China and spread to more than 25 countries, including the United States. Among its victims was a doctor who was censured for reporting the severity of the outbreak and later succumbed to the disease, prompting widespread outcry, according to The New York Times.
As of Feb. 7, only 12 Americans had been diagnosed with the illness.
Although relatively few people in the U.S. have contracted the virus, public health officials are on high alert. The coronavirus is similar to the deadly SARS and MERS viruses in that it originated in animals and spread to humans, whose immune systems are not prepared for the disease.
It also appears to spread easily. Coronavirus can be transmitted through the air via coughs or sneezes and through contact with other people, according to King County Public Health. It can cause pneumonia and other side effects that can be deadly.
The World Health Organization announced that the virus was a global emergency and that it needed $675 million for preparedness and a global response plan.
Locally, the Sea-Tac International Airport is one of 11 airports in the country that is accepting potentially infected people. The federal government declared that such passengers must be quarantined for two weeks before being released, for fear that the outbreak may get worse.
One such quarantine facility is located just outside of North Bend, in King County. Others have been a bit more impromptu.
Passengers aboard the Diamond Princess and World Dream cruise ships — docked off of Yokohama, Japan, and Hong Kong, respectively — are also in lockdown. According to The New York Times, 61 people on the Diamond Princess tested positive for the virus, and 273 had potentially been exposed.
The situation has created strange bedfellows.
A webcam service, which offers clients access to cam sessions with models, announced it would give passengers and crews of the ships free cam sessions to help them stave off cabin fever.
“While CamSoda can’t help with infection or scrambled travel plans, they are hoping to help with boredom,” according to a press release.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC.
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