Five cases of the new infectious coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, have been confirmed in the United States, Nancy Messonnier, MD, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a Jan. 27 press briefing.
A total of 110 individuals are under investigation in 26 states, she said. While five cases have been confirmed positive for the virus, 32 cases were confirmed negative. There have been no new cases overnight.
Last week, CDC scientists developed a real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test that can diagnose the virus in respiratory and serum samples from clinical specimens. On Jan. 24, the protocol for this test was publicly posted. “This is essentially a blueprint to make the test,” Dr. Messonnier explained. “Currently, we are refining the use of the test so that it can provide optimal guidance to states and labs on how to use it. We are working on a plan so that priority states get these test kits as soon as possible. In the coming weeks, we will share these tests with domestic and international partners so they can test for this virus themselves.”
The CDC uploaded the entire genome of the virus from the first two cases in the United States to GenBank. It was similar to the one that China had previously posted. “Right now, based on CDC’s analysis of the available data, it doesn’t look like the virus has mutated,” she said. “And we are growing the virus in cell culture, which is necessary for further studies, including the additional genetic characterization.”
As of today, 16 international locations, including the United States, have identified cases of the virus. CDC officials are continuing to screen passengers from Wuhan, China, at five designated airports. “This serves two purposes: first to detect the illness and rapidly respond to [affected] people entering the country,” Dr. Messonnier said. “The second purpose is to educate travelers about the symptoms of this new virus, and what to do if they develop symptoms. I expect that in the coming days, our travel recommendations will change. Risk depends on exposure. Right now, we have an handful of new patients with this new virus here in the U.S. However, at this time in the U.S., this virus is not spreading in the community. For that reason, we believe that the immediate health risk of the new virus to the general American public is low.”
The CDC is asking its clinical lab partners to send virus samples to the CDC to ensure that results are analyzed as accurately as possible.