The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported the first case of person-to-person transmission of coronavirus in the United States. In a telebriefing on Thursday, officials said the patient is the husband of a Chicago woman who was diagnosed with the illness after returning from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the virus.
The case marks the sixth coronavirus illness confirmed in the U.S., and the second in Illinois.
Dr. Robert Redfield, the CDC director, said the health agency had expected to identify "some" person-to-person spread in the U.S., and insisted that the risk to the American public "remains low." Officials stressed that the husband, who did not travel to China and is in his 60s with underlying health issues, and his wife had continued close contact while she was symptomatic, exposing him to the virus.
Both patients remain hospitalized and the man is stable. The woman, who is also in her 60s and was the first travel-related case confirmed in Illinois, is said to be "doing well." Illinois officials declined to identify which hospital is treating the patients.
Officials said an investigative team is continuing to look into potential contacts of the couple.
Health officials in Canada previously reported a similar instance in a couple who were diagnosed with the coronavirus after they returned from a trip to Wuhan. The Ontario Ministry of Health said the man, who is in his 50s, reported fever and respiratory symptoms and was placed in isolation. Days later, the wife also tested positive for the virus.
At this time, the CDC said it does not recommend the general public wear masks, but that those who have recently traveled to China be vigilant about reporting possible symptoms.
The virus, which originated in Wuhan, has sickened more than 7,700 people and has been linked to at least 170 deaths. The number of cases in mainland China has now surpassed that of the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak, but the death toll remains significantly lower.