COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Health officials in Brazos County said they are investigating a possible case of coronavirus involving a college student.
The patient is a student at Texas A&M University who recently traveled to the Bryan-College Station area from Wuhan, China.
Health officials say the male student is in his 20s or 30s and recently visited Wuhan, the origin city for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
The student went to the ER Wednesday night with mild respiratory symptoms. He went to the ER because he knew Wuhan was the source of the illness and was concerned. The emergency room quickly realized it was a possible coronavirus case and took steps to make sure it wasn't spread.
The student is now resting at home and is in isolation from others. At this point, health officials haven't said whether the student lives on campus or might have exposed others at A&M.
"Fortunately, his symptoms are not severe and he is doing well," Brazos County Health Authority Dr. Eric Wilke said. "They rapidly identified this as a potential, and did all steps very, very well, and they notified us immediatley to we were present as well."
If it's determined he has the coronavirus, he would be the second confirmed case in the U.S. The first case was confirmed in Washington.
The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) causes flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath and a sore throat. It is linked to at least 25 deaths in and around Wuhan.
The human coronavirus is shown in a file image made from a transmission electron microscopy view. (Photo by Cavallini James/BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Health officials today praised doctors and nurses in the emergency room for quickly recognizing the possible case.
“All local hospitals, once this virus was made known, were already taking steps to monitor,” explained Dr. Wilke. “And that was part of detecting this early. Those steps were already in place.”
Test results to confirm the virus are expected to arrive late Thursday or Friday. The health department will make a public announcement if the case is confirmed.
The Brazos County Health Authority did not say which airport the patient might have traveled through. The CDC is already screening passengers at five U.S. airports, but none in Texas.
Wilke said they were operating under the assumption the patient attended classes before they went to an ER for an evaluation.
Texas A&M University officials say they are aware of the possible case. It’s unclear what possible precautionary measures they may be taking. However, they say the immediate health risk on campus is low. At this time, classes will continue as scheduled.
Meanwhile, Chinese authorities have locked down at least three cities with a combined population of 18 million in an effort to contain the virus. In the capital of Beijing, lunar new year celebrations have been canceled.
Thursday afternoon, China's Health Commission confirmed 25 deaths and 830 cases tied to the outbreak. All of the deaths were in and around the Chinese city where the outbreak originated.
Still, the World Health Organization says it's too early to declare the outbreak a ‘global emergency.’
“Now is not the time. That it is a bit too early to consider that this event is a public health emergency of international concern,” said Didier Houssin, chair of Emergency Committee on the Novel Coronavirus.
“They are definitely going to be considering day-to-day, even hour-to-hour to make that declaration,” Diana Cervantes said.
Diana Cervantes has more than a decade of experience in public health, and is now with the UNT Health Science Center.
“As far as declaring an emergency, they are really the experts in that. There are a lot of factors they need to consider in declaring it an emergency. At this point, it is a rapidly evolving situation,” she added. ”People are going to be concerned because this is something new. There isn't much that is known about it and it's constantly changing.”
Experts say that while the situation is evolving rapidly, as long as you haven't traveled to the affected areas in China, you shouldn't be concerned.
“If you haven't had travel or had contact with somebody who has had travel that has signs or symptoms then the risk is very low,” Cervantes said.
While U.S. senators have been locked down at impeachment hearings, on Friday, government health officials are set to brief the Senate on the coronavirus before proceedings get underway.