Coronavirus: First person-to-person contact; 7,000 stuck on cruise ship; global emergency declared

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The World Health Organization has officially declared the coronavirus outbreak a global emergency. The news comes as we learn that the virus has spread from person-to-person in the United States for the first time.

The emergency declaration by WHO puts more resources into the effort to control the virus.

As for the new case in the US, this is the sixth confirmed case. But it's different - the first five were directly related to travel to the affected area.

Health officials in Illinois announced their second confirmed case of the novel coronavirus, which is the first person-to-person transmission in the US.

The patient, a man in his 60s, is the husband of the first confirmed case in Illinois, who was a woman in her 60s who had traveled to China.

Health officials say the patient was being monitored and any close contacts he had are also under surveillance. The CDC considers close contact 10 minutes or more of face-to-face contact.

But this one case doesn't change the overall risk. Officials say it's important to know that the virus is not widely spreading in the community.

"We are not recommending people in general public take additional precautions, cancel activities or avoid going out of their homes," said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Illinois Department of Public Health Director.

Overseas, Italian authorities were holding a cruise ship with about 7,000 passengers on board for screening after a 54-year-old passenger from Asia developed flu-like symptoms.

The woman and her partner were in isolation and preliminary test results came back negative. However, the passengers are being told to stay put for now.

Meanwhile, UNICEF is shipping tons of masks, suits, and other protective gear to China, where supplies among healthcare workers are running low.

Health officials here in Philadelphia are also taking this seriously, with screenings to begin for passengers arriving at Philadelphia International Airport from affected areas. But they are also reminding the general public that the risk for infection at this time is low.
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