Coronavirus

A transmission electron microscopy image shows the first isolated case of the coronavirus.

CONCORD — Two people in New Hampshire who recently traveled to the Chinese city considered “ground zero” for a deadly new coronavirus have been isolated and are being monitored for symptoms, according to state health officials.

The two, who developed respiratory symptoms after visiting Wuhan City, China, are undergoing testing for the disease that has sickened thousands and killed at least 80 people in China, officials with the state Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday.

The two have not been identified.

According to state health officials, the two have exhibited mild symptoms. Samples have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing. If the tests come back positive, DHHS said it will share the results with the public.

“The risk to our communities in New Hampshire is low, but we want to identify people who may be infected with this new coronavirus in order to prevent spread,” state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan said in a statement.

“We have recommended that health care providers conduct travel screenings and implement isolation practices for patients with a fever or respiratory illness who report travel to this affected region of China,” Chan said. “This is a rapidly changing situation, and we remain committed to providing timely updates to residents of New Hampshire and our health care providers.”

The outbreak began in Wuhan, a city of 11 million, in early December and spread to other parts of the country. As of Jan. 27, 2,744 cases were confirmed in mainland China. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Monday it is investigating 110 people in 26 states.

Initially it seemed the virus wasn’t transmitted readily between people. But on Jan. 20 the World Health Organization confirmed that it could be passed from human to human.

Chinese media reported health care workers had been infected. Other cases have been reported in which the virus spread along a four-person chain, indicating that it’s more easily transmissible than earlier thought. A top Chinese health official said it could be contagious before the carrier shows symptoms, which would make the spread much harder to stop.

A scientific assessment of the spread of the disease, assuming an optimistic 90 percent quarantine, still predicted more than 59,000 infections and 1,500 deaths — twice the toll of the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak.

Reported symptoms have primarily included fever, cough and difficulty breathing, state health officials said in a statement. No vaccines are available to protect against coronavirus, according to DHHS.

The CDC recommends taking precautionary measures similar to those for flu prevention, including frequent handwashing with soap and water, avoiding sick people, staying home if you are sick, covering your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing and cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs.

DHHS officials cautioned residents who have recently returned from a trip to China and are feeling sick to call their health care provider.

For more information on novel coronavirus, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

Information from the Washington Post was used in this report.

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