February 12 coronavirus news

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2:04 p.m. ET, February 12, 2020

Coronavirus could "gain a foothold in the US," CDC official says

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is taking steps to help prevent the possible spread of the novel coronavirus in the United States and prepare for an outbreak here, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during a call with reporters on Wednesday.

"Most of the disease is in China, however, we can and should be prepared for this new virus to gain a foothold in the US. The goal of the measures we have taken to date are to slow the introduction and impact of this disease in the United States, but at some point we are likely to see community spread in the US or other countries and this will trigger a change in our response strategy,” Messonnier said during the call.

"This will require the effort of all levels of government, the public health system and our communities as we face these challenges together,” Messonnier said. "One important aspect of this is taking steps to make sure there are enough supplies and appropriate guidance to prevent spread of the disease, especially among health care personnel caring for patients.”

Some of the steps the CDC has taken include speaking regularly with manufacturers of medical supplies, including personal protective equipment or PPE, such as face masks, to make sure that enough supplies are available in case they are needed.

"CDC does not currently recommend the use of face masks for the general public. This virus is not spreading in the community,” Messonnier said.

But in an effort to make sure enough supplies are available in case of an outbreak in the United States, “CDC talks regularly with health care industry partners as well as PPE manufacturers and distributors to assess availability of PPE. At this time, some partners are reporting higher than usual demand for select N95 respirators and face masks,” Messonnier said.

Confirmed cases in the US: There are 13 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in the United States, including seven in California, two in Illinois, one in Arizona, one in Massachusetts, one in Washington state and one in Wisconsin. This includes two instances of known person-to-person transmission – one in California and one in Illinois.

1:57 p.m. ET, February 12, 2020

WHO director-general thanks Cambodia for welcoming Westerdam cruise ship

The Westerdam, as seen in 2019.
The Westerdam, as seen in 2019. Tim Rue/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, has thanked Cambodia for allowing the Westerdam cruise ship to dock there.

“The Westerdam ship will arrive in Cambodia tomorrow morning,” he said, adding that he called Cambodia's Minister of Health to thank the country for allowing the ship to dock.

“This is an example of the international solidarity we have consistently been calling for,” the WHO director-general said, adding that "outbreaks can bring out the best and worst in people” and that “stigmatizing individuals or entire nations does nothing but harm the response."

He went on to reiterate that “this is a time for solidarity, not stigma." He added that WHO is shipping medical kits to help the worst hit areas.

1:27 p.m. ET, February 12, 2020

Two coronavirus patients discharged from hospital in France

Two patients who had been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus in France have recovered from the disease and have been discharged from the hospital, a spokesperson for the French General Health Directorate told CNN on Wednesday. 

The two patients are a Chinese couple in their thirties who had been quarantined at the Bichat Hospital in Paris.

12:05 p.m. ET, February 12, 2020

Dalai Lama cancels all public engagements due to the coronavirus

AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images

The Dalai Lama has canceled all his public engagements until further notice due to the “deteriorating outbreak” of the coronavirus, according to a statement from his office.

“His Holiness will not be doing any public engagements for now until further notice due to coronavirus," the Dalai Lama’s secretary, Tenzing Taklha, told CNN.

Read the full statement from the Dalai Lama’s office:

“An announcement was made recently regarding the ordination ceremony for monks. However due to the deteriorating outbreak of the viral disease (Coronavirus- 2019 nCoV) that originated in China, His Holiness’ personal physician as well as consultants have advised a postponement of all public engagement for the time being, and His Holiness has duly agreed to further postpone his public schedule. Hence the ordination ceremony for the monks will be rescheduled and the announcement will be made shortly afterwards. We hope for your understanding in the matter. February 12, 2019.”  

  

 

1:00 p.m. ET, February 12, 2020

CDC has screened more than 30,000 passengers from China for the novel coronavirus

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has now screened more than 30,000 passengers from China at the 11 airports designated to conduct these enhanced screenings, according to Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

On a call with reporters Wednesday, Messonnier said that with the tighter travel restrictions now in place, there are now fewer passengers flying to the United States from China. Those who do are still being asked to self-monitor for 14 days in cooperation with state and local health department, and to limit their activities and stay home during that period. The goal is to be as restrictive as possible while maintaining protections among all Americans, Messonnier said.

The latest update from the CDC, issued within the last hour, indicated that 420 people have now been investigated for the novel coronavirus in 41 states. Of them, 13 have tested positive, 327 negative and 60 are still pending.

The vast majority of cases have been in mainland China.

11:31 a.m. ET, February 12, 2020

Small study finds no evidence of mother-to-child transmission of coronavirus

There’s currently no evidence the novel coronavirus can pass from a mother to a child in the womb, according to a study published Wednesday in the medical journal The Lancet.

The small, observational study included nine women in Wuhan, China, in their third trimesters of pregnancy. Each woman had a lab-confirmed case of novel coronavirus pneumonia, officially called COVID-19, and was treated from January 20 through January 31. 

Researchers tested amniotic fluid, cord blood and neonatal throat swabs at birth to study the possibility of fetal infection with the novel coronavirus, and all the samples tested negative. All the women had cesarean sections, so it’s not clear if the virus could be passed from mother to child during vaginal birth.

All the pregnancies resulted in live births and none of the infants required special pediatric treatment. Four of the mothers experienced preterm labor, but the researchers said the causes weren’t related to coronavirus. Pregnancy complications that appeared after the illness began included fetal distress in two cases and premature rupture of membranes in two cases.

The study also found that none of the pregnant women developed severe pneumonia or died as of February 4. Their symptoms, including fever, cough, sore throat and muscle aches, were similar to symptoms in people who aren’t pregnant.

Why this is important: This is notable because pregnant women are particularly susceptible to respiratory pathogens and severe pneumonia, the researchers wrote. One study found about half the pregnant women who developed SARS during that outbreak were admitted to the intensive care unit, and during the H1N1 flu pandemic, pregnant women were more likely than the general population to be admitted to the hospital and were at increased risk of complications, the researchers wrote.

Still, researchers said, the case of an infant who tested positive for the coronavirus within 36 hours of birth in early February means special consideration is needed to keep newborns safe if their mothers are infected with the coronavirus.

It’s also not clear how the novel coronavirus could affect a fetus in the first or second trimester of pregnancy, the researchers wrote.

11:53 a.m. ET, February 12, 2020

420 people in the US have been investigated for coronavirus

Signage with information about the coronavirus alert is posted at a California medical center on February 9.
Signage with information about the coronavirus alert is posted at a California medical center on February 9. Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has listed 420 people under investigation for the novel coronavirus in 41 states, according to an update posted to the agency's website on Wednesday.

Of them, 13 have tested positive, 347 negative and 60 are still pending.

These numbers are cumulative since January 21 and include people with travel history to China, as well as those who have been in close contact with confirmed cases or other people under investigation.

About the confirmed cases: There are seven in California, two in Illinois, one in Arizona, one in Massachusetts, one in Washington state and one in Wisconsin. This includes two instances of known person-to-person transmission – one in California and one in Illinois.

The CDC was previously the only lab in the country that could test for the virus but has since begun shipping test kits to qualified labs so that state and local health departments can conduct their own screening.

11:55 a.m. ET, February 12, 2020

Illinois is the first state with the ability to test for coronavirus

CDC's laboratory test kit for the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
CDC's laboratory test kit for the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Credit: US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Illinois is the first state with the capability to test patients for the novel coronavirus, according to an announcement Tuesday by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which previously had the only lab in the country that could test for the virus, began shipping test kits to domestic and international labs last week.

“The ability to do this testing will mean we will be able to detect any new cases of novel coronavirus earlier and prevent any possible spread,” Evonda Thomas-Smith, the Illinois health department's assistant director, said in a statement Tuesday.

The test can yield results within 24 hours of receiving samples. The state health department is receiving specimens at its laboratory in Chicago and says that two more, in Springfield and Carbondale, are forthcoming.

Some background: Illinois has so far documented two confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, out of the current total of 13 in the United States.

Last week, the CDC said it planned to distribute roughly 200 test kits to domestic labs and another 200 to international labs. Each test kit can perform 700 to 800 patient samples.

The test is known as a reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction test (RT-PCR) and can detect the virus from nasal or oral swabs when used with an existing RT-PCR instrument — the same one often used to test for seasonal influenza, according to the CDC.

Negative results do not preclude infection with the virus and should be combined with clinical observations, patient history and epidemiological information, health officials have said.

According to numbers published Monday, the CDC has investigated 398 people for the novel coronavirus in 37 states since January 21. Most of these people — 318 — have tested negative, and 68 are still pending. The agency is expected to update its “people under investigation” case count later today.

10:39 a.m. ET, February 12, 2020

Singapore confirms three additional cases of coronavirus

A DBS bank logo is displayed atop the Marina Bay Financial Center in Singapore in August 2017.
A DBS bank logo is displayed atop the Marina Bay Financial Center in Singapore in August 2017. Ore Huiying/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Health officials in Singapore have confirmed three additional cases of the novel coronavirus.

According to the Ministry of Health, all three of the newly confirmed patients are Singaporean citizens with no travel history to mainland China. The male patients are 34, 46, and 62 years old.

The Ministry of Health added that the 62 year-old newly confirmed patient worked at DBS bank in the Marina Bay Financial Center. Earlier on Wednesday, DBS evacuated all its staff from its office in the Marina Bay Financial Center following confirmation that its employee had contracted the virus.

Singapore now has 50 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus. Thirty-five patients remain hospitalized, eight of which are in critical condition. According to the Singapore Ministry of Health, 15 patients have fully recovered from the virus and have been discharged from the hospital.