By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Millions are impacted as a deadly virus that started in China is spreading mainly in Asian countries, but there is one confirmed coronavirus case in the United States and airports around the country are screening passengers. The World Health Organization says it’s not yet a global health emergency, but cities in China are locked down.

Health officials in the United States are working to make sure it doesn’t spread.

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Hospitals in Philadelphia and around the country are asking patients with flu-like symptoms about where they’ve traveled as they check for potential coronavirus cases. U.S. airports are checking passengers arriving on international flights and widespread efforts are underway, aiming to contain this first-of-its-kind virus.

Coronavirus, which is similar to a common cold and spreads the same way, causes severe respiratory symptoms and a fever, just like the flu.

“Patients who come in with a fever and any kind of respiratory complaints, difficulty breathing or cough, and also seeing if they have any recent travel history to parts of China,” Dr. Samuel Krass said.

Krass, an emergency department physician, says people shouldn’t panic.

The likelihood of an outbreak in the United States is low and there are no reports of coronavirus in the Philadelphia region.

“I would be more worried about the flu,” Dr. Zachary Klase with the University of the Sciences said. “The flu is already here, causes tens of thousands of deaths.”

Klase is a virologist at Philadelphia’s University of the Sciences. He says there are a lot of unknowns about the coronavirus because it’s new and appears to have spread into the human population from infected snakes in a market in Wuhan, China.

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“There’s a snake virus that can be transmitted in humans. Presumably handling snakes in the market led to someone inhale this and get sick,” Klase said. “That’s the important point that people weren’t sure of for a while whether there was human-to-human spread. It does seem like that is happening.”

It’s still unclear how easily coronavirus spreads. Authorities in China are locking down at least three cities in an unprecedented move that impacts more than 18 million people.

Most of the cases and all of the deaths have happened in China, but there are fears the virus could spread more with this week’s busy travel season in advance of Saturday’s Lunar New Year. Many events are being canceled.





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Stephanie Stahl