State Department warns travelers to reconsider Asian cruises
By Molly Walker, Associate Editor, MedPage Today |
One new case of COVID-19 coronavirus illness was confirmed in California, as CDC announced a new policy on case reporting. and the U.S. State Department issued new advisories for travelers on Friday.
Nancy Messonnier, MD, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, announced that the agency will now be distinguishing COVID-19 cases in U.S. citizens evacuated from Wuhan and repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship from other types of cases (e.g., those associated with travel to China or close contacts of returning travelers).
There are now 13 travel-associated COVID-19 cases in the U.S. The newest case was confirmed on Thursday in northern California’s Humboldt County, and was associated with “mainland China travel,” CDC officials said. Reporting from KRCR-TV said the case, and a close contact who has symptoms, are both “doing well and self-isolating at home.”
CDC officials added that, since their last call, they have issued Level 1 travel advisories for Hong Kong and Japan, signifying that travelers may go there but should take precautions against infection. While the agency hasn’t changed guidance for other countries, officials noted “some areas of community spread” of COVID-19 in several other Asian countries, including Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Messonnier also addressed recent reports about “additional cases” of COVID-19 in Iran, which officially reported five cases and two deaths, according to latest data from the World Health Organization on Friday, although Al Jazeera reported two more people have died. WHO officials reportedly called the outbreak in Iran “very worrisome.”
“The rumor of additional cases in Iran isn’t confirmed yet. We need some time to evaluate it, and we are working with the World Health Organization,” Messonnier said.
Officials from the State Department also joined the media call with CDC officials to relay a recent travel alert regarding cruises in the Far East.
“U.S. citizens should reconsider travel by cruise ship to or within Asia,” according to the State Department website.
“We urge U.S. citizens to evaluate the risk of remaining in any area that may be subject to quarantine,” Ian Brownlee, the department’s principal deputy assistant secretary for consular affairs, said on the call. The new advisory also urged people who do board cruise ships in Asia to take unspecified “proactive measures” in preparation for possible quarantine or other restrictions.
In addition to the 13 travel-associated cases, CDC officials noted 18 cases among repatriated citizens from the Diamond Princess and three in U.S. citizen evacuees from Wuhan. They added that they eventually expect to include Diamond Princess passengers who tested positive in Japan and have remained there for observation and treatment.
Messonnier noted that there has not been community spread in the U.S. — “yet” — but emphasized it is “very possible, even likely that it could eventually happen.”
To that end, the CDC is in the process of updating documents for community mitigation of pandemic influenza as a “blueprint for community interventions used in the U.S.” that could be adapted to COVID-19.
She added that certain countries have taken measures to mitigate community spread of the virus, such as keeping workers out of workplaces and closing down schools.
“A day may come when we need to implement such measures in U.S. communities,” Messonnier said, warning of the “possibility that this outbreak will become pandemic.”
Source: MedPage Today