Health officials said they were keeping the Texas A&M student, who had traveled to China, isolated at home.Travelers arriving from China at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington on Thursday. Credit... David Ryder/Reuters
Jan. 23, 2020Updated 8:51 p.m. ET
SEATTLE — A Texas A&M University student was being isolated at home on Thursday as health officials said they were examining whether he could be the second known case of Wuhan coronavirus in the United States.
The man had traveled from Wuhan, China, where the outbreak of the respiratory illness began, and health care providers determined that he met the criteria for coronavirus testing, health officials in Brazos County, Texas, said. They said they would promptly announce if testing confirmed the patient’s illness was a case of Wuhan coronavirus.
Texas A&M said in a statement that the immediate health risk to those on its campus in College Station was considered low.
The case marked a growing roster of people being monitored around the United States since officials identified the country’s first confirmed Wuhan coronavirus patient in Washington State this week. Officials have been working to contact people who were on his flight home from the Wuhan region, and on Thursday they increased the number of people they have identified as having had close contact with that patient in recent days to 43. Those people will get daily check-ins from medical personnel to monitor their health.
Separately, the state’s health officer, Dr. Kathy Lofy, said in an interview that officials have started investigating a few other individuals in the state to determine whether they may have the coronavirus strain.
While assuring the public that there was little threat, officials have said the patient in Washington State would most likely not be the last Wuhan coronavirus case to reach the United States. Dr. Lofy encouraged people to take typical steps that could prevent the spread of illnesses, such as washing hands and avoiding touching their eyes, nose and mouth.
“Currently, we believe the risk to the general public is low,” Dr. Lofy said.
The strain of coronavirus surfaced in December and has spread through parts of Asia, sickening hundreds and killing at least 17 people. The authorities in China have since closed off Wuhan, a city of more than 11 million people, by canceling flights and trains leaving the city, and suspending bus, subway and ferry service within it. Travel restrictions have been extended to several cities nearby.
The United States has put travel limits of its own in place, funneling passengers who have traveled recently to Wuhan through a handful of airports, including Los Angeles International, that have special screening processes in place.
A passenger who arrived at Los Angeles International on an American Airlines flight from Mexico City on Wednesday night was taken to a hospital for a “precautionary medical evaluation,” officials said. Heath Montgomery, an airport spokesman, said he did not know whether the traveler had recently been to China or whether coronavirus was suspected.
State and county health officials declined to discuss the situation in detail, but said they did not have any confirmed cases of coronavirus. They have been providing healthy travelers arriving from Wuhan with information about symptoms and advising them to seek care if they become ill.
The union that represents more than 27,000 American Airlines flight attendants on Thursday called for airlines to institute immediate emergency measures, including procedures to manage potentially ill people. Lori Bassani, the national president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, said airlines needed to do everything possible to contain the outbreak and minimize the chances of exposure.
“The health of our crew members and passengers is a top priority for us and we refuse to compromise their health or safety in any way,” Ms. Bassani said.