China expands lockdown against virus, fast-tracks hospital

Passengers wear face masks as they wait for a train at a subway station in Beijing, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. China broadened its unprecedented, open-ended lockdowns to encompass around 25 million people Friday to try to contain a deadly new virus that has sickened hundreds, though the measures' potential for success is uncertain.

Health officials are investigating whether a patient in Brazos County is sick with the same deadly coronavirus that is wreaking havoc across China as cities there are being placed on lockdown to prevent its spread.

The unnamed patient is a student at Texas A&M University who traveled from Wuhan, China, where the virus originated, said Dr. Eric Wilke, a Brazos County health official, at a Thursday press conference. The patient is isolated at home while precautionary testing is being completed. Wilke wouldn't confirm whether the student lives in on-campus housing but said the student seems to be improving. Brazos County is about 100 miles southeast of Killeen.

The student went to a local emergency room Wednesday afternoon, concerned about mild symptoms that came after traveling to Wuhan. Medical professionals familiar with the virus and its origin flagged the patient and initiated tests.

Patient samples were sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offices in Atlanta for testing. Wilke said he expects results over the weekend or Monday. If the virus is confirmed, the next step would be tracing the patient’s trail of contact to see who else might have been exposed, Wilke said.

The virus produces flulike symptoms including fever, cough, shortness of breath and sore throat, according to the CDC.

Texas A&M released a statement Thursday acknowledging that a student might be sick with the virus.

"Texas A&M continues to work with its Student Health Services and the Brazos County Health District. Officials have described the immediate health risk to the campus community as low," school officials said.

The CDC confirmed Tuesday that the first known case of coronavirus in the United States was identified in Washington state. That person had also recently traveled from Wuhan. Hundreds of flights from the Wuhan airport were canceled and U.S. officials plan to route flights from the region to one of five American airports where passengers can be screened for the virus, The Washington Post reported late Thursday.

At least five cities in China have been placed on lockdown, with airports, buses and subways suspended in an effort to contain the outbreak, according to media reports.

At least 18 victims have been confirmed dead and more than 600 infected; however, none of those were in the United States.

As of Thursday, coronavirus cases were confirmed in China, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, South Korea and the United States, according to the CDC.

After two days of deliberation, the World Health Organization is holding off on declaring a global health emergency, but it will reconvene within 10 days.



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