Home Health News New York City Investigating Possible First Case of Coronavirus – Wall Street Journal

New York City Investigating Possible First Case of Coronavirus – Wall Street Journal

6 min read

The Times Square subway station. There is a suspected case of the novel coronavirus in New York City.


bryan r smith/Reuters

A person who had recently been in China has been hospitalized in New York City and is the city’s first suspected case of coronavirus, according to the city’s top health official.

The individual, who wasn’t named, is under the age of 40, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The person is in stable condition at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, part of the city’s public New York City Health + Hospitals system, and is undergoing testing for coronavirus after 26 other common viruses were ruled out.

The person arrived at the hospital very late on Friday night and had been in the U.S. for two days before developing symptoms, said Oxiris Barbot, the city’s health commissioner, during a Saturday night press conference. The patient had a fever, cough and runny nose and sought out medical care, she said. The person wasn’t staying in a place with family or friends and has no family here, she said.

“This individual did what we have been asking New Yorkers to do,” said Dr. Barbot. “If you have traveled to affected areas in China within the last 14 days and you have symptoms—fever, cough, shortness of breath or you’re feeling unwell—contact your doctor or seek care in an emergency department.”

No other person in New York City has reached the threshold of being under investigation, said Dr. Barbot, adding that the virus is spread through droplets and extended contact, usually in a household.

There are eight confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. and over 12,000 world-wide, according to estimates. This novel strain of the coronavirus originated in the city of Wuhan, China.

On Friday, the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary

Alex Azar

declared a public health emergency, saying that any foreign citizens who have traveled anywhere in China within the past 14 days will be denied entry to the U.S. Americans who had visited the epicenter of the outbreak in Hubei province will be quarantined for up to two weeks, he said.

New York City officials have for weeks been preparing for potential cases of the coronavirus. Testing to determine whether this person has the coronavirus, however, will take a minimum of 36-48 hours, depending on the testing capacity at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

During the Saturday press conference, New York City Mayor

Bill de Blasio

urged the CDC to permit testing for the coronavirus in the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Public Health Laboratory, which has the capacity to do such testing. The faster that testing for the coronavirus can happen, he said, “the better off everyone will be.”

If the patient under investigation ultimately tests positive for the coronavirus, said Dr. Barbot, then the city’s disease detectives will begin retracing the person’s steps.

As part of that process, said Dr. Barbot, a person is asked in excruciating detail to account for their time in 15-minute intervals. The patient is asked about who they contacted, if it was casual or intimate, if they shared eating utensils or kissed, she said.

“We get into the very nitty-gritty of how it is that someone might come in contact with someone,” Dr. Barbot said.

Write to Melanie Grayce West at melanie.west@wsj.com

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