Since announcing a case of 2019 novel coronavirus in Snohomish County, Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and Snohomish Health District have been working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on interviewing the patient and beginning a contact investigation.
This includes establishing a detailed travel history with the patient and identifying close contacts who may have experienced some level of exposure.
The DOH on Tuesday confirmed a case of 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in the Snohomish County resident.
While the risk to the general public is low, health officials are working to identify and contact anyone who may have come in contact with the infected traveler. These individuals will be monitored for fever and respiratory symptoms.
The patient, a man in his 30s, is the first person known to be infected with 2019-nCoV in the United States. He arrived in Snohomish County on Jan. 15 after traveling from Wuhan City, China, where an outbreak of 2019-nCoV has been underway since December 2019. As of the morning of Jan. 21, there were 300 cases worldwide, but that number is likely to grow.
The Washington patient developed symptoms and was seen at a clinic in Snohomish County. Specimens were collected and sent to the CDC for testing. The patient is under observation at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.
Health officials are actively monitoring these contacts, which means a public health worker will call each person daily to check for symptoms like fever or respiratory issues. Should one of these close contacts develop symptoms, they will be instructed to immediately contact the public health worker, who will help arrange a medical evaluation.
“As of now, we have identified at least 16 close contacts. Local public health staff started reaching out to them yesterday and continue to do so today,” said Snohomish County Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters. “The risk to the general public remains low. If there is a location where we are concerned about potential transmission, and where public health cannot contact those individuals directly, that information will be released quickly.”
Coronaviruses are primarily spread through respiratory droplets, which means to become infected, people generally have to be within six feet of someone who is contagious and have droplets land on them. This is very different from airborne diseases like measles, so the public health response is very different.
As health officials learn more about 2019 novel coronavirus, they will better understand when people become contagious, but other coronaviruses are not contagious when the person does not have symptoms. The patient did not report any symptoms during his flight or at the airport. But out of an abundance of caution, the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine is working with the airlines and state health departments to ensure appropriate passenger notification.
“This may be a novel virus, but it is not a novel investigation,” said Secretary John Wiesman. “Public health staff participate in these types of investigations all the time and are well trained to have these conversations.”
Advice to the general public is the same as every cold and flu season. Wash your hands regularly and if you’re sneezing and coughing, stay home. If you’ve traveled from Wuhan City, China into the U.S. and you have symptoms, seek advice from your health care provider. If you don’t have a health provider, reach out to your health department. At this time people should go about their usual routines and activities.
DOH has established a call center to address questions from the public. If you have questions about what is happening in Washington state, how the virus is spread, and what to do if you have symptoms, please call 1-800-525-0127 and press #.
The Snohomish Health District, with support from our Medical Reserve Corps and Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management, have also activated a call center. Snohomish County residents and visitors with questions can call 425-388-5088 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. starting today. Call volumes will be monitored to determine when that call center will be de-activated.
More information on 2019 novel coronavirus is available from:
The outbreak in Wuhan, China was originally linked to a large seafood and animal market, suggesting a possible zoonotic origin to the outbreak. Human to human spread has been confirmed. How easily or sustainably this virus is spreading remains unknown.