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Health officials monitor possible coronavirus case in Clark County

Updated January 29, 2020 - 8:19 pm

The Southern Nevada Health District announced Wednesday morning that a possible case of a new coronavirus that has spread from China around the globe has been found in a resident of Clark County.

The patient is being held in isolation at a local hospital and will be monitored until testing is completed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, probably later this week.

“We are working with the CDC and the local hospital in order to collect a specimen from this person and send that specimen to the CDC for confirmation of the diagnosis,” Dr. Fermin Leguen, acting chief health officer for the district, said at a news conference.

“I want to emphasize that today there is not any confirmed case of novel coronavirus in Las Vegas or in Clark County,” Leguen said, adding that the district is working with the CDC, local hospitals and medical providers to identify any possible cases in patients with respiratory illness.

Health district officials said that the adult resident recently had traveled to the city of Wuhan in central China, the epicenter of the outbreak. The patient, who returned to the country on Jan. 14, became ill approximately 10 days later and was hospitalized Tuesday with mild symptoms at an undisclosed local hospital.

Patient spent month in China

Citing privacy concerns, health district officials provided few details about the patient, who they said had spent a month in China.

It is the first possible case of the new coronavirus in Nevada to come under investigation, according to the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services.

There have been five confirmed cases of the new virus in the United States as of Wednesday, according to the CDC. They were in Illinois, California, Washington and Arizona. Another 68 cases that met the criteria for CDC testing were negative for the new virus, or more than 93 percent. The criteria includes lower respiratory illness and recent travel to Wuhan, or illness and close contact with a patient with a confirmed case. Ninety-two additional cases are pending.

More than 7,700 confirmed cases have been reported worldwide, and there have been 170 deaths in China. Small numbers of cases have been confirmed in neighboring countries and in Europe, Australia and Canada.

People who traveled to Wuhan and feel sick with fever and coughing or have difficulty breathing within 14 days of their return should contact their health care provider, the district said.

State public health officials said they also were monitoring the situation but reiterated that people who haven’t recently visited Wuhan are at low risk.

Virus ‘not spreading’ in U.S.

“While this novel coronavirus may be causing concern, it’s important to remember that there are only five confirmed cases in the United States, and all of those cases had traveled to Wuhan, China,” said Ihsan Azzam, chief medical officer of Nevada Department of Health and Human Services. “Currently, this virus is not spreading in the United States. Early detection of cases; prompt application of case isolation and timely quarantining contacts, in addition to practicing proper hygiene, will help us control this outbreak.”



While the new coronavirus is considered a serious public health threat, the district said, the risk of infection in the U.S. is low.

The coronavirus family can be transferred from animals to humans, as certain strains did during the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) outbreak in 2015 and the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak from 2002 to 2004. Public health officials believe that the new outbreak originated in a Wuhan market where the virus transferred from animals to humans.

Like the SARS and MERS viruses, the new coronavirus also can spread from person to person, health authorities have determined.

Health district officials emphasized that there are four common types of coronavirus for which hospitals routinely test that produce respiratory symptoms and the common cold.

“Patients who receive a diagnosis of coronavirus in local health care facilities have tested positive for a common strain of the virus and not the 2019 Novel Coronavirus,” the district said in its news release.

Contact Mary Hynes at mhynes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0336. Follow @MaryHynes1 on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Rory Appleton contributed to this report.

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