Two people in Connecticut are being monitored for signs of the novel coronavirus, an infectious disease that has spread in China and is now appearing as isolated cases in other countries, including the United States.
A student at Wesleyan University and another person in New Haven County are under observation, according to Gov. Ned Lamont’s office. Health officials said the Wesleyan student tested negative for the disease, but both people have tested positive for the flu.
Both people remain in isolation as a precaution, state officials said. The state Department of Public Health is waiting on final test results from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the patient in New Haven County.
Dr. Paul Genecin, a director and professor at Yale University and Yale Health, wrote in a letter Sunday to students, faculty and staff that a high school student from China who was participating in the annual Yale Model United Nations conference this past weekend exhibited cough and fever.
The student was taken to Yale New Haven Hospital, where the student tested positive for influenza, Genecin said. Final test results for the coronavirus are expected later this week, and the student “is in good condition,” Yale officials said.
“I want to assure all residents of Connecticut that we are taking this new virus very seriously and have been closely coordinating our response with local health departments and medical providers throughout the state,” DPH Commissioner Renee Coleman-Mitchell said in a statement.
There are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Connecticut, but the CDC found that five people who recently returned to the United States from visiting Wuhan, China, contracted the virus, which causes respiratory disease.
The CDC states that symptoms can appear in two days to as long as 14 days after exposure. They can mimic the seasonal flu and include cough, fever, runny nose, sore throat and headache. Coronavirus has caused mild illness, as well as severe illness, especially among those with preexisting health complications.
Nearly 4,500 people have contracted the virus, the majority in China. Updated reports put the Chinese death toll at 106 people, according to The New York Times.
Officials from the World Health Organization said Monday that there are still unknown aspects of the virus, but scientists are working to find more answers. What they do know is that it can spread from person to person through respiratory droplets in the air, mostly from people being in close proximity or contact with one another.
DPH last week directed local health departments and providers to get detailed travel histories for patients appearing with fever and acute respiratory illness. State officials urge that any suspected or possible cases of coronavirus be reported immediately.
The WHO has not declared the disease outbreak a global public health emergency, as it has done for the H1N1 influenza virus in 2009, Ebola outbreaks in West Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Zika virus in 2016.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal in a statement urged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to declare its own public health emergency in order to open up additional funding for response to local outbreaks and vaccine development.
“The recent coronavirus strain exploding in China has resulted in many deaths, and therefore proactive steps must be taken at the federal and state levels,” Blumenthal said.
The CDC maintains that while it expects to see more cases in the United States, “the immediate health risk from 2019-nCoV (coronavirus) to the general American public is considered low at this time.”
This story has been updated.