As of Wednesday night, 20 people in California have been infected with an acute respiratory illness called coronavirus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In North America, coronavirus is common and infections are usually mild, but what we know of the current outbreak is that all of the people who have been affected are reportedly older and in relatively poor health.
There are signs that the illness is accelerating. On Monday, the CDC reported two additional cases in California — one man who had become ill in early September and a woman who became sick in September. In addition, a 19-year-old man in the U.K. was hospitalized with the illness, and according to the agency, the man was the first person in the world who contracted the virus on American soil.
The last time a laboratory-confirmed case of the disease was identified in the United States was Oct. 13, 2011. Those people were a 22-year-old man who developed severe respiratory illness and a 56-year-old man who developed acute respiratory illness. Both men developed severe acute respiratory illness in Mexico before they traveled to the United States.
Both men recovered, but Dr. Mary Anne Jackson, the director of CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, said that it’s important to note that the current virus “is a novel virus, not like the coronavirus from 2003.”
“People cannot really be quite sure at this point in time that this virus is a recent event,” she said in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. “So we have to keep in mind that this is an alert — not an emergency.”