Wuhan coronavirus case confirmed in US, authorities scramble to respond

WUHAN, CHINA – JANUARY 17: WUHAN, CHINA – JANUARY 17: (CHINA OUT) Medical staff transfer patients to Jin Yintan hospital on January 17, 2020 in Wuhan, Hubei, China. Local authorities have confirmed that a second person in the city has died of a pneumonia-like virus since the outbreak started in December. (Photo by Getty Images)

The first case of the deadly Wuhan coronavirus has been confirmed in the United States, the CDC reported Tuesday.

A Washington man in his 30s who just returned from Wuhan, China is now being treated for the illness.

Hundreds of cases have been confirmed across Asia, with six fatalities so far confirmed from the disease.

Authorities have been scrambling to respond to the new virus, although details about it are yet to be released to the public. The CDC, the peak body for the control of infectious diseases in the US, has activated its Emergency Response System after announcing the new case.

Coronaviruses are a large but dangerous family of viruses, which includes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). Coronaviruses become particularly concerning when person-to-person transmission is demonstrated by new viral strains.

The evidence that person-to-person transmission of the Wuhan coronavirus has occurred is what has authorities particularly alarmed, the CDC has said. Once such easily transmissible diseases become widespread, the possibility for a global pandemic becomes high.

The Spanish flu influenza pandemic of 1918-1920 was one such global pandemic, which infected 500 million and caused the deaths of 50 million.

Of particular note for people today is the well established correlation between periods of global cooling and the risk of pandemics. Research by scientists in recent decades has found that historical pandemics such as the European Black Death were likely not caused by rats, as previously thought, but rather by climatic fluctuations in Asia driving carriers of disease to new areas.

As the Grand Solar Minimum intensifies and global cooling accelerates in the 2020’s, it is likely that global pandemics will become more common.