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CDC confirms 5 cases of novel coronavirus in U.S. while China reports jump

Health officials have identified five confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in the U.S. and 110 more cases are under investigation in 26 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Monday.

Cases in the U.S. have been diagnosed in Washington State, Illinois, California and Arizona, health officials said. Globally, 16 countries, including the U.S., have reported cases of novel coronavirus, but the immediate health risk to Americans remains low, said Nancy Messonnier, who directs the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. People under investigation include those who have traveled to Wuhan and have developed any respiratory symptoms, she said.

“Risk depends on exposure,” she said. “Right now, we have a handful of patients with this new virus in the U.S. however at this time in the U.S., this virus is not spreading in the community.”

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Roughly 2,400 people have been screened for novel coronavirus upon entering the U.S. through major airports, CDC said. The incubation period for the virus is up to 14 days. While this outbreak is “unfolding before our eyes,” it does not appear to be as infectious as the highly contagious measles, for example, Messonnier said.

She urged people who have traveled to Wuhan or outlying Hubei province in China, and who have developed respiratory symptoms, to contact their physician immediately. Health officials have urged people to cover their nose and mouth when they sneeze or cough, since the virus spreads through airborne respiratory droplets.

The CDC is developing diagnostic kits to distribute to health departments in all 50 states in an effort to hasten the time it takes to test respiratory and blood samples. Those kits should be ready in the next one to two weeks, Messonnier said.

In China, reported numbers have jumped in recent days with at least 80 deaths and 2,744 confirmed cases fanning out from the city of Wuhan– a city of 11 million people where investigators traced the illness’ origin. Chinese authorities have shut down transportation for 17 cities, effectively placing 50 million people under mandatory quarantine in an effort to contain the virus.

In the U.S., the number of confirmed cases have continued to go up over the last two weeks. The incubation period for the virus appears to be up to 14 days, Messonnier said. That, plus the public’s growing awareness of virus, help explain that rise. The first case was a patient who traveled from Wuhan, China, to Washington State. He realized he had symptoms and sought medical help. On Friday, CDC officials identified the nation’s second case as a woman in her 60s who lived in Chicago and had recently returned from Wuhan, China.