SAN DIEGO — Four people hospitalized in San Diego for observation after being evacuated from the Wuhan region of China were in stable condition as of Thursday, according to physicians from UCSD Medical Center and Rady Children's Hospital. All four were part of a group brought to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and were hospitalized after developing symptoms that warranted further observation for possible exposure to the deadly coronavirus.
Another person was transported from MCAS Miramar to UCSD Medical Center Thursday afternoon, according to UC San Diego Health.
At a press conference held Thursday morning, doctors said three adults and one child, a 4-year-old girl, were being held for observation after being evacuated from the Wuhan region of China earlier this week.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued the following statement on the fifth patient Thursday afternoon:
"Medical staff from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have
identified another evacuee from Wuhan, China who arrived at MCAS Miramar and has developed a fever or a cough that warrants them being transported to a
local hospital for further evaluation.
The adult was transported to UC San Diego Health. This brings the total number of persons transported to hospitals for evaluation to five."
The patients were among 167 people who arrived Wednesday at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, where they began a government-mandated two-week quarantine due to possible exposure to the virus.
Francesca Torriani, program director of infection prevention at UC San Diego Health, and Dr. John Bradley, medical director, infectious diseases at Rady Children's Hospital said: "there is no threat to the public."
"No health care workers who followed precautions by World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have fallen ill," Torriani said.
On Wednesday, two unrelated adults were transported to UC San Diego Health, and one father and a daughter were transported to Rady Children's Hospital. A GoFundMe page has been set up for the father and daughter.
Doctors said they were awaiting test results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine if any of the four patients are infected with coronavirus. Those results are expected as early as Saturday morning.
Coronavirus is a respiratory illness with similar symptoms to a cold or influenza in most patients, including a fever and difficulty breathing. Both hospitals are following CDC protocol and treatment guidelines.
Dr. Torriani reminded the public to have compassion and patience.
"Remember, these are American citizens who have already gone through a lot," she said. "We are going to welcome them and make life as good as possible."
She also said that according to estimates, coronavirus has a lower mortality rate than the strain of influenza which has killed 7,000 Americans this season.
"If we are looking at worst-case scenario, the mortality for the flu is something like 2.5%, with that number going up if there are underlying medical problems," she said. "The estimates for coronavirus (are) less than 2%."
Even so, both physicians expressed shock at media reports that one of the first doctors to express alarm over the outbreak in China was seriously ill. They said the virulence of coronavirus was not fully understood, but said best knowledge was that it was spread by large water droplets within 3-6 feet of a person suffering symptoms such as coughing or sneezing. Such a transmission method means it's unlikely any of the people on the flight to Miramar had developed symptoms of the illness, they said.
"If anyone on that flight had symptoms, after 11 hours of flying, the whole flight would have been sick," Bradley said.
Bradley said that while the coronavirus is indeed "novel" in that its exact strain has not been seen before, SARS was a similar coronavirus with much higher mortality rates, so world health officials have some research on treating similar viruses. He said antiviral medications had already shown some efficacy in treating the illness.
The hospitals and county health officials were pressing the CDC to offer test kits to identify the strain of virus without the need to send biological samples to the federal headquarters in Atlanta.
Rady Children's Hospital officials talked about being prepared for this scenario before information about the passengers was released.
"We use the same type of standard protective gear which include gowns masks, eyewear," said Nicholas Holmes, M.D. Senior V. and C.O.O at Rady Children's Hospital.
The medical transports are a part of CDC's plan to ensure that anyone showing signs of illness consistent with coronavirus during their quarantine period will be transported to a nearby medical facility for isolation, evaluation, and care as needed.
The flight sent to San Diego was one of two carrying a total of roughly 350 American evacuees from Wuhan. Both flights arrived Wednesday morning at Travis Air Force Base in Northern California. One remained there while the other continued on to MCAS Miramar after refueling.
The 167 people who arrived from China on Wednesday are under a government-mandated two-week quarantine due to possible exposure to the potentially deadly disease.
Nearly 200 Americans arrived at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside on Jan. 29 and are quarantined there after being evacuated from Wuhan.
A child among the group was taken to Riverside University Medical Center on Monday night after developing a fever, but the child was later cleared and allowed to return. A second child from the group was taken to a hospital Wednesday for observation.
The coronavirus epidemic has claimed at least 560 lives, with more than 28,000 infections, mostly in China. The respiratory illness is treatable, and many patients are recovering, according to reports.
There have been 12 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, with six of those in California, including one case each in Los Angeles and Orange counties. Temporary quarantine and processing sites have been established at major airports, including LAX.
The virus was first identified by the Chinese government on Dec. 31, when authorities indicated an unknown pneumonia variant was infecting residents of Hubei province.