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News Picture: Coronavirus Cases Top 2,700 in China, While 5th U.S. Case Is Confirmed

MONDAY, Jan. 27, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Chinese officials extended the New Lunar Year holiday on Sunday, as the number of cases of a new coronavirus climbed past 2,700 and the death toll reached 81.

Meanwhile, the United States reported on Sunday that its latest case count for the 2019-nCoV virus has climbed to five.

The Lunar New Year is China’s busiest travel season and officials there said the end of the holiday was pushed back to “reduce mass gatherings” and “block the spread of the epidemic,” the Associated Press reported.

Whether such measures will be enough remains to be seen after a high-ranking Chinese health official warned on Sunday that the already rapid spread of the new coronavirus could accelerate even further, The New York Times reported.

Ma Xiaowei, director of China’s National Health Commission, noted that people carrying the virus but not showing symptoms could still infect others. The incubation period can vary from one to 14 days, with a typical duration of about 10 days, he said.

The fact that people can carry the virus without showing symptoms makes containment especially difficult. This was not the case with SARS, another coronavirus that killed 800 people in China and other countries in 2002-03.

“The epidemic is now entering a more serious and complex period,” Ma said during a media briefing in Beijing. “It looks like it will continue for some time, and the number of cases may increase.”

Still, Chinese health officials continued to try to contain the outbreak, expanding a travel ban to 17 cities with more than 50 million people as part of the most extensive disease-control measures ever imposed, according to the AP.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong said it would bar entry to visitors from Hubei province, which is at the center of the outbreak, and travel agencies were ordered to cancel group tours nationwide.

And Shanghai, which has 25 million people and is a global business center, extended the Lunar New Year by an additional week within the city, to Feb. 9, and ordered sports stadiums and religious events closed, the AP reported.

Coronavirus cases have now also been confirmed in South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal, France, Canada and Australia, the AP reported.

In the United States, two new cases of the coronavirus were confirmed in Arizona and California over the weekend, bringing the total number of cases in the United States to five, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Sunday.

The two new cases involve people who recently returned to the United States from Wuhan.

It’s likely that more cases will be reported in the United States in the coming days and weeks, and that these cases are likely to include person-to-person transmission of the virus, the CDC noted.

“This is a rapidly evolving situation, and we are still in the early days of the investigation — both domestically and abroad. CDC continues to monitor the international situation with our teams on the ground in affected countries, as well as domestically in the four states with confirmed cases — Arizona, California, Illinois and Washington,” the CDC said in a news release.

The agency added that it’s following “an aggressive public health response strategy and working closely with state and local public health authorities to identify potential cases early and make sure patients get the best and most appropriate care.”

“This is a very serious public health situation. We understand that some people are worried about this virus and how it may impact Americans. Outbreaks of new diseases are always of concern and in today’s connected world, an outbreak anywhere can be a risk everywhere,” the CDC said.

“Risk is dependent on exposure. Someone who is in close contact with a person who is infected with 2019-nCoV will be at greater risk of infection and should take the precautions outlined in CDC’s guidance for preventing spread in homes and communities,” the agency said.

Americans should avoid all nonessential travel to the Hubei Province in China, and take certain precautions — such as avoiding contact with people who are sick and practicing good hand hygiene — if traveling to other areas of China, the CDC advised.

For the general public in the United States, no additional precautions are currently recommended.

It’s also the height of the flu season in the United States, so the CDC recommends getting a flu vaccine, taking everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs, and taking flu antivirals if prescribed.

— Robert Preidt

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SOURCES: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news release, Jan. 26, 2020