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U.S. Evacuates More Americans From City at Center of China's Coronavirus Outbreak

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 5, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- About 350 Americans who were evacuated Tuesday from the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in China landed at an Air Force base in California Wednesday morning.

Two planes were involved in this latest evacuation, and some of the Americans on those flights will be quarantined for 14 days at Travis Air Force Base in Northern California, the Associated Press reported.

The first group of evacuees, who were flown out of Wuhan, China, a week ago, have been moved off Travis Air Force Base in anticipation of the new arrivals, the AP reported.

One of the planes was scheduled to fly some of the Americans to the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar near San Diego later Wednesday, where those people will also be quarantined for 14 days, according to the AP.

These are the second and third such flights from Wuhan since the outbreak began. In total, more than 500 Americans have already been evacuated from China, CNN reported.

But U.S. health officials said Wednesday there will be several planes carrying more passengers from Wuhan that will arrive in three states this week. These locations are Travis Air Force Base, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, and Eppley Airfield in Omaha, Neb.

"CDC staff are there meeting the planes and assessing the health of each passenger," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the U.S. National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during a Wednesday media briefing. "The passengers will be screened, monitored and evaluated by medical and public health personnel, including before takeoff and during the flight," she explained.

"The measures we are taking may not catch every single returning traveler with this novel coronavirus, given the nature of this virus and how it's spreading," Messonnier added. "But if we can catch the majority of them, that will slow the entry of this virus into the United States."

Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced on Tuesday that it had fast-tracked a test for the virus in an effort to help speed screening efforts.

"Today, the test kits will start shipping to over 100 U.S. public health labs," Messonnier said Wednesday. "Initially, 200 test kits will be distributed to U.S. domestic laboratories, and another 200 will be distributed to selected international laboratories. Each test kit can perform 700 to 800 patient samples."

As of Wednesday, 206 Americans under investigation have tested negative, she said, with testing pending on 76 people.

"You may start hearing from states directly about confirmed cases," Messonnier noted. "As always, their count will be the most up-to-date."

Eleven cases of coronavirus have been confirmed so far in the United States, with the first patient released from the hospital on Tuesday, AP reported.

Worldwide, there are roughly 24,500 cases of the new coronavirus, most of those in China. There are now coronavirus cases in at least 24 countries outside China. Two deaths outside China -- one in the Philippines and one in Hong Kong -- have also been reported, The New York Times said.

In response, the United States has begun to bar entry to any foreigners who have recently traveled to China.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the American actions were taken because there are "a lot of unknowns" surrounding the virus and its transmission path, the Times reported.

"The number of cases have steeply inclined with every day," Fauci noted.

The temporary entry ban applies to foreign nationals, with the exception of relatives of citizens and permanent residents, the Times reported.

U.S. citizens who have recently traveled to the Hubei province of China, where Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, is located, will be quarantined for up to 14 days, U.S. health officials said. U.S. citizens who have recently traveled to other parts of China will face health screenings and voluntary quarantines of up to 14 days.

The World Health Organization has already declared the new coronavirus outbreak an international public health emergency.

Meanwhile, Chinese officials said Wednesday that the death toll in that country has hit 490, the Times reported. That exceeds the death total reported in mainland China in the 2003 SARS outbreak, which was 349.

Chinese health officials have said that the virus is spreading from person-to-person. They have also said they believe the virus can be spread by a person who is not showing symptoms of infection.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the new coronavirus.

SOURCES: Feb. 5, 2020, media briefing with: Nancy Messonnier, M.D., director, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; The New York Times; CNN; Associated Press

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