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U.S. reports first case of person-to-person spread of new virus

The man is married to a Chicago woman who got sick from the virus after she returned from a trip to Wuhan, China.
This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). This virus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via AP) [AP]
This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). This virus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via AP) [AP]
Published Jan. 30
Updated Jan. 30

NEW YORK — Health officials Thursday reported the first U.S. case of person-to-person spread of the new virus from China.

The man is married to the Chicago woman who got sick from the virus after she returned from a trip to Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak. There have been cases reported of the infectious virus spreading to others in a household or workplace in China and elsewhere.

The new case is the sixth reported in the United States. The other five were travelers who developed the illness after returning to the U.S. from China. The latest patient had not been in China.

Related: What you need to know about the coronavirus sweeping through China

The Chicago woman returned from central China on Jan. 13, then last week went to a hospital with symptoms and was diagnosed with the viral illness. She and her husband, both in their 60s, are hospitalized.

Experts have said they expected additional cases, and that at least some limited spread of the disease in the United States was likely. Health officials think the new virus spreads mainly from droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how the flu spreads.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Illinois health officials said that health workers and people who have been in contact with the latest patient are being monitored for symptoms.

“We anticipated this,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University infectious diseases expert. “The kind of contact that you have in a household is very close and very prolonged. That’s the kind of circumstance where we would anticipate a virus such as this could be transmitted."

Related: China counts 170 virus deaths, new countries find infections

The virus can cause fever, coughing, wheezing and pneumonia. It is a member of the coronavirus family that's a close cousin to the SARS and MERS viruses that have caused outbreaks in the past. The new virus has sickened thousands, mostly in China, and killed about 170.

An international outbreak caused by the virus first emerged last month in China. Doctors there began seeing the new virus in people who got sick after spending time at a wholesale food market in Wuhan. Officials said the virus probably initially spread from animals to people, as did SARS and MERS.

The other U.S. cases are in Arizona, Southern California and Washington state.

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