5th coronavirus evacuee evaluated at local hospital


SAN DIEGO — A fifth American evacuated from the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in China has been taken to a local hospital for evaluation.

The evacuee, an adult, was taken to UC San Diego Medical Center in Hillcrest.

Four people, including a 4-year-old girl, were taken to local hospitals Wednesday to be evaluated. Two adults were transported to UC San Diego Medical Center in Hillcrest and one adult and one child were taken to Rady Children’s Hospital.

All five individuals were among the 167 people flown from the Wuhan region of China to MCAS Miramar.

Coronavirus is a respiratory illness with similar symptoms to a cold or influenza in most patients, including a fever and difficulty breathing.

Dr. Francesca Torriani, the program director of infection prevention at UCSD Health, reminded the public to have compassion and patience.

“Remember, these are American citizens who have already gone through a lot,” she said. “We are going to welcome them and make life as good as possible.”

She also said that according to estimates, coronavirus has a lower mortality rate than the strain of influenza which has killed 7,000 Americans this season.

“If we are looking at worst-case scenario, the mortality for the flu is something like 2.5%, with that number going up if there are underlying medical problems,” she said. “The estimates for coronavirus (are) less than 2%.”

Both physicians said the virulence of coronavirus was not fully understood, but said best knowledge was that it was spread by large water droplets within 3-6 feet of a person suffering symptoms such as coughing or sneezing. Such a transmission method means it’s unlikely any of the people on the flight to Miramar had developed symptoms of the illness, they said.

“If anyone on that flight had symptoms, after 11 hours of flying, the whole flight would have been sick,” Bradley said.

Bradley said that while the coronavirus is indeed “novel” in that its exact strain has not been seen before, SARS was a similar coronavirus with much higher mortality rates, so world health officials have some research on treating similar viruses. He said antiviral medications had already shown some efficacy in treating the illness.

The hospitals and county health officials were pressing the CDC to offer test kits to identify the strain of virus without the need to send biological samples to the federal headquarters in Atlanta.

The 167 people who arrived from China on Wednesday are under a government-mandated two-week quarantine due to possible exposure to the potentially deadly disease. Medical personnel with the CDC met the arriving flight at the northern San Diego military base after it touched down shortly before 9:30 a.m., officials said.

The coronavirus epidemic has claimed at least 560 lives, with more than 28,000 infections, mostly in China. The respiratory illness is treatable, and many patients are recovering, according to reports.

There have been 12 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, with six of those in California, including one case each in Los Angeles and Orange counties. Temporary quarantine and processing sites have been established at major airports, including LAX.

The virus was first identified by the Chinese government on Dec. 31, when authorities indicated an unknown pneumonia variant was infecting residents of Hubei province.

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