coronavirus illustration

An illustration of the coronavirus. 

A 57-year-old San Benito County man who recently traveled to Wuhan, China came home with the 2019-Novel Coronavirus and transmitted it to his wife, also 57, San Benito Public Health Services officials announced on Feb. 2. It’s the first case of close household person-to-person transmission in the state, according to the California Department of Public Health.

The two have not left their home since the husband returned from China and neither had been hospitalized according to the announcement. Officials there advised the couple about home isolation and are closely monitoring their condition. They are consulting with the CDPH and the Centers for Disease Control.

UPDATE: San Benito Health Officer Marty Fenstersheib announced on Feb. 3 in a press release that the couple showed worsening symptoms the night before and were referred for further medical evaluation. It was determined they needed a higher level of care and were transported outside of San Benito County by a specialty ambulance. The release did not state where the couple was transported to.

UPDATE: UC San Francisco Health confirmed on Feb. 3 that its medical center received the two patients from San Benito County. According to a press release, the two are being treated in isolation. The center specializes in the care of patients with complex illnesses like the coronavirus and treated patients during the SARS outbreak in 2003.

The two San Benito cases put the total number of cases of 2019-nCov in California at six, according to a press release from the CDPH. Two were recently confirmed in Santa Clara County. The other two cases are in Los Angeles and Orange counties. As of Feb. 3, the CDC reports 11 positive cases in five states.

There are no reported confirmed cases in Monterey County as of the morning of Feb. 3. Last week there was one potential case that was tested and found to be negative. Originally the county’s Health Department reported two other cases that were pending but it turns out those were the San Benito husband and wife. That county is small and does not have its own testing lab, so Monterey County provides that service, says Karen Smith, spokesperson for the Monterey County Health Department.

The World Health Organization declared an international public health emergency on Jan. 30, which was followed the next day with an emergency declared in the U.S. by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II. A federal order went into effect the same day barring any foreigners who spent the previous 14 days in China from entering the U.S. A travel ban stopping U.S. citizens from traveling to China went into effect at 5pm, Feb. 2.

While the efforts to prevent the international emergency from rising to the level of a pandemic make the coronavirus sound ominous, health officials at the federal, state and local level continue to allay any fears that a major epidemic will take root here.

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"The novel coronavirus is a serious public health concern, however the risk to the general public in California remains low,” Sonia Angell, California Public Health Department Director and State Health Officer, said in a press release. “We have had only one case of person-to-person transmission here and it was from a traveler to China to a spouse. Both are in stable condition."

Symptoms of the coronavirus are similar to the flu, including fever, cough, congestion and possibly shortness of breath. Older adults and people with underlying health conditions may be at increased risk for more serious reactions.

Health officials say the best way to protection yourself is to wash hands with soap and water, rubbing for at least 20 seconds, covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when coughing or sneezing and staying home if you’re sick.

Officials are advising people who have not had flu shots to get vaccinated since both flu and the coronavirus have similar symptoms and the healthier a person is the less likely they will get another virus.

Monterey County’s Health Officer Edward Moreno says the flu continues to be far more dangerous here in the U.S. On Jan. 31, the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula announced doctors there are seeing an increasing number of people coming in with flu-like symptoms along with an increasing number testing positive.

The hospital created and released a brief video about the flu featuring its emergency department medical director, Casey Grover.

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