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First Case of Novel Coronavirus Confirmed in Orange County

By: Ian Michael Anzlowar, Michelle Cornelius and Chelsea Pan

On Jan. 25, the OC Health Care Agency (HCA) confirmed the first Orange County case of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Santa Ana, tracing the source to a traveler from Wuhan, China, the origin of the disease. 

“In Orange County, we have had a single confirmed case of the novel coronavirus that was reported to us yesterday, and that is in a traveler from Wuhan,” said Dr. Nichole Quick, County Health Officer. “We have no evidence of human-to-human transmission in Orange County, and we believe the local risk remains low.”

Quick reports the patient to be a 50-year-old man who is currently in isolation and good condition at a local hospital. The UCI Student Health Center has confirmed that the individual is not a UCI student, faculty, staff or patient. 

In regards to preventative measures in Orange County, Quick said, “We are in the midst of flu season right now. It is very important to get yourself vaccinated. If you are ill, stay home. Hand hygiene is critical. Wash [your] hands frequently before eating [or] touching your face. If you are coughing or sneezing, remember to cover your coughs and sneezes.” 

The HCA published the following warning for those who suspect exposure to 2019-nCoV:

“If you have recently been to Wuhan, China and have developed fever with cough or shortness of breath within 14 days of your travel or have had contact with someone who is suspected to have novel coronavirus—stay home and call your health care provider immediately. If you do not have a healthcare provider or if you need to be seen at a hospital, do not go directly to the hospital. Please call the emergency room to get instructions before going in.”

The UCI Student Health Center has a similar protocol for UCI students and faculty:

“Any member of our community suspecting they have influenza or the Coronavirus should stay home. Students should call the Student Health Center at (949) 824-5304, or call their primary medical provider prior to arriving at the medical office. This will allow us to provide you with information on your illness, and to plan for your visit to the clinic, if needed. Faculty and staff should contact their provider’s office for additional instructions about seeking care.”

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a family of viruses that cause respiratory illnesses ranging from mild infection to serious diseases, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV). 2019-nCoV is a new strain classified as a zoonose, meaning that it is transmissible from animals to humans through contact or environment. 2019-nCoV had not previously been identified in a human host.

According to Harvard Medical School, symptoms of the 2019-nCoV include a cough, fever, shortness of breath or nausea. High risk individuals, such as infants or the elderly, those with cardiopulmonary disease and those with weakened immune systems may develop lower-respiratory tract illnesses such as bronchitis or pneumonia.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 2019-nCoV symptoms have ranged from little to no symptoms to severe illness and death. As of Jan. 26, there are no approved antivirals for 2019-nCoV. 

Coronaviruses are mainly transmitted through respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing. Influenza and other respiratory pathogens are similarly transmitted, and spread of the disease often occurs at close contact.

The disease is believed to have originated from a wet market, a marketplace where live animals are sold for food. Since its discovery in Wuhan last month, the disease has spread throughout China and to multiple foreign countries. According to Al Jazeera, the first reported international case was a woman traveling from Wuhan to Thailand on Jan. 13. Three days later, the virus was reported in Japan by the Japan Health Ministry. Since then, eight cases have been reported in Hong Kong and five in Macao. Other cases have been found in Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Vietnam, Nepal, France and Australia. 

On Jan. 21, the CDC confirmed the first U.S. 2019-nCoV case in Seattle. A second case in Chicago was confirmed three days later. On Jan. 25, the first case of the novel coronavirus was reported in Orange County. On Jan. 26, one case was reported in Los Angeles County and another in Arizona, bringing the total cases confirmed in the U.S. to five.

On Jan. 11, China reported the first 2019-nCoV related death in a 61-year-old man who purchased goods from the Wuhan wet market. He did not respond to treatment and reportedly passed of heart failure on the night of Jan. 9. The second death was reported on Jan. 17, as three major U.S. airports began screening passengers arriving from the city. As of Jan. 26, the death toll in China has increased to 80 while the number of people infected has risen to 2,700.

On Jan. 23, Wuhan was officially put under quarantine as air and rail departures were suspended. By Jan. 24, the death toll had risen to 26, and further restrictions were implemented by the Chinese government, shutting down a total of 13 cities in Hubei province. 

By Jan. 25, the lockdown had increased to 16 cities and an unprecedented 56 million people throughout Hubei province. At the epicenter of the virus, Wuhan has banned all private and public vehicle use, assigning 6000 neighborhood taxis to transport people if need be. 

Chinese news network Xinhua reported that Wuhan is currently constructing two makeshift hospitals to house victims of the virus. To assist in the treatment of victims, the provincial health commission confirmed that a team of 205 experienced doctors and nurses from hospitals in Guangdong Province have been recruited and dispatched to Wuhan. China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has increased dispersal of medical supplies to Wuhan. 3 million masks, 110,000 pairs of gloves, 14,000 protective suits, and 2,180 pairs of goggles have been transferred to the area in attempts to reduce the transmission of the disease.

Despite the increase in international infection, the HCA reports that the current risk of 2019-nCoV transmission in Orange County remains low.

For more information about the novel coronavirus, please visit www.cdc.gov or www.ochealthinfo.com/novelcoronavirus.