The U.S. State Department announced Sunday that it planned to evacuate personnel stationed in Wuhan, China, to San Francisco because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Officials are “making arrangements to relocate its personnel stationed at the U.S. Consulate General in Wuhan to the United States. We anticipate that there will be limited capacity to transport private U.S. citizens on a reimbursable basis on a single flight leaving Wuhan Tianhe International Airport on January 28, 2020 and proceeding directly to San Francisco,” the State Department said in a statement.
The news comes as California is dealing with its first case of the virus.
The Orange County Health Care Agency confirmed late Saturday night that the infected person’s virus was the same strain as the one that has spread to more than 2,000 people and 14 countries and territories and caused 56 deaths since it was discovered late last month in central China. Two other cases have been diagnosed in the U.S., one in Washington state and one in Chicago.
The patient is in good condition and is in isolation at a hospital, Orange County health officials said. Health authorities are following up with anyone who has had close contact with the patient, but also noted that people with casual contact — such as visiting the same grocery store or movie theater — “are at minimal risk of developing infection.”
The new strain of coronavirus, known as 2019-nCoV, can cause respiratory illness and pneumonia. It was originally thought to be spreading from only animals to people in central China, but there are now indications it is also spreading among people.
In people who are young and healthy, the virus does not seem to cause severe illness, with symptoms including fever, coughing and shortness of breath. Most of the dozens of deaths tied to the coronavirus to date have been in the central Chinese province of Hubei, of which Wuhan is the capital.
Health experts in the United States have said there’s no evidence to suggest the new coronavirus is any more virulent than the flu.
As of Friday, 18 people between the ages 3 to 58 had been tested for the virus in California, according to the state Department of Public Health. They included a traveler who arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on a flight from Mexico City and was taken to a hospital early Thursday for an evaluation.
Dr. Sonia Angell, director of the California Department of Public Health, said in a video statement last week that the immediate health risk to the general public in California is low, based on current information, but that the department is carefully monitoring the virus and considers it “a serious public health concern.”
Besides the Orange County case, only two other people have tested positive for the virus in the United States — a man in Washington state and a woman in Illinois.