News from the FDA/CDC

CDC: Risk in U.S. from 2019-nCoV remains low


A total of 165 persons in the United States are under investigation for infection with the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), with 68 testing negative and only 5 confirming positive, according to data presented Jan. 29 during a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) briefing.

The remaining samples are in transit or are being processed at the CDC for testing, Nancy Messonnier, MD, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during the briefing.

“The genetic sequence for all five viruses detected in the United States to date has been uploaded to the CDC website,” she said. “We are working quickly through the process to get the CDC-developed test into the hands of public health partners in the U.S. and internationally.”

Dr. Messonnier reported that the CDC is expanding screening efforts to U.S. ports of entry that house CDC quarantine stations. Also, in collaboration with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the agency is expanding distribution of travel health education materials to all travelers from China.

“The good news here is that, despite an aggressive public health investigation to find new cases [of 2019-nCoV], we have not,” she said. “The situation in China is concerning, however, we are looking hard here in the U.S. We will continue to be proactive. I still expect that we will find additional cases.”

In another development, the federal government facilitated the return of a plane full of U.S. citizens living in Wuhan, China, to March Air Reserve Force Base in Riverside County, Calif. “We have taken every precaution to ensure their safety while also continuing to protect the health of our nation and the people around them,” Dr. Messonnier said.

All 195 passengers have been screened, monitored, and evaluated by medical personnel “every step of the way,” including before takeoff, during the flight, during a refueling stop in Alaska, and again upon landing at March Air Reserve Force Base on Jan. 28. “All 195 patients are without the symptoms of the novel coronavirus, and all have been assigned living quarters at the Air Force base,” Dr. Messonnier said.

The CDC has launched a second stage of further screening and information gathering from the passengers, who will be offered testing as part of a thorough risk assessment.

“I understand that many people in the U.S. are worried about this virus and whether it will affect them,” Dr. Messonnier said. “Outbreaks like this are always concerning, particularly when a new virus is emerging. But we are well prepared and working closely with federal, state, and local partners to protect our communities and others nationwide from this public health threat. At this time, we continue to believe that the immediate health risk from this new virus to the general American public is low.”

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