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Here you will find some short highlights of some of the hottest current science news stories. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, @science, where you can also get the latest science news. You can also find new science news stories on the homepage of Science, Space & Robots.

First U.S. Unknown Origin Coronavirus Patient is at UC Davis Medical Center (February 27, 2020):

The U.S. has its first novel coronavirus case of unknown origin. This means that so far health experts and officials have not been able to determine how the patient contracted the virus. It also a severe case of the virus. The patient is currently on a ventilator at the UC Davis Medical Center.

UC Davis Medical Center has published a statement about this patient. This is not the first coronavirus patient at the center and they say they followed appropriate precautions. They also say the patient was at another hospital before arriving.

This patient was transferred to us from another Northern California hospital. Since the patient arrived with a suspected viral infection, our care teams have been taking the proper infection prevention (contact droplet) precautions during the patient's stay.
The statement also says, "This is not the first COVID-19 patient we have treated, and because of the precautions we have had in place since this patient's arrival, we believe there has been minimal potential for exposure here at UC Davis Medical Center."

The fact the patient was at another hospital first is concerning because they may not have taken the same precautions as UC Davis. There are also concerns about community spread because the complete transmission chain for this patient is not known. This is how clusters can form in the community.

UC Davis Medical Center also says that it requested a Covid-19 test from the CDC upon the patient's admission. The astute physicians there recognized the symptoms and had experience with them having already treated a prior Covid-19 patient. However, the test was "not immediately administered" because the patient "did not fit the existing CDC criteria for COVID-19." Later, the CDC conducted the test and the result was positive for the coronavirus.

On Sunday, the CDC ordered COVID-19 testing of the patient and the patient was put on airborne precautions and strict contact precautions, because of our concerns about the patient's condition. Today the CDC confirmed the patient's test was positive.
Clearly, the CDC's testing criteria needs to be updated in order to catch more potential community cases like this one elsewhere in the U.S. An SF Gate story focuses on this delay in getting the test. It says a small number of medical center employees have been asked to self-monitor at home as a precaution.

It is noteworthy that the patient was placed on even stricter contact precautions following the positive test result.

The California Department of Health has also released a statement on the new case. It says, "The individual is a resident of Solano County and is receiving medical care in Sacramento County. The individual had no known exposure to the virus through travel or close contact with a known infected individual."

The CDPH press release also says that contact tracing in this case has already begun.

60th U.S. Coronavirus Case Reported by Alex Azar (February 26, 2020):

The number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. has climbed to 60. The location of the case has not been reported.

CNBC reports that U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said, "Coming into this hearing, I was informed that we have a 15th confirmed case, the epidemiology of which we are still discerning," during his testimony before a house panel.

This is the seventh new U.S. case reported today. Six new cases among repatriated Americans from the Diamond Princess cruise ship were reported earlier today. These patients tested positive after returning to the U.S.

The new cases follow warnings from the CDC that the coronavirus may cause severe disruption to everyday life in the U.S. The CDC is preparing for eventual spread of the virus in the U.S.

President Trump is scheduled to give a press conference on the coronavirus today at 5 p.m. ET.

U.S. Coronavirus Case Count Climbs to 59 (February 26, 2020):

The number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. has climbed to 59. The count includes six new cases among repatriated Americans from the Diamond Princess cruise ship. These patients tested positive after returning to the U.S.

The CDC now lists 42 cases from the Diamond Princess cruise ship for the Wednesday, February 26 update. The site is update just three days a week.

The new cases follow warnings from the CDC that the coronavirus may cause severe disruption to everyday life in the U.S. The CDC is preparing for eventual spread of the virus in the U.S.

The U.S. is also looking to get $2.5 billion in funding for the virus. Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has upped that amount with a request for $8.5 billion in emergency funding according to The Hill.

Brazil Confirms First Case of Coronavirus (February 26, 2020):

Brazil has confirmed its first case of the coronavirus (Covid-19). It is also the first confirmed case in Latin America. The case is a patient returning from Lombardy, Italy. There is a growing coronavirus outbreak in Italy with over 370 cases and 12 deaths.

A Reuters report notes that the case comes during Brazil's busy carnival holiday. The patient is a 61-year-old at a Sao Paulo hospital.

The virus seems to be spreading to new countries daily. A page on CNN has a growing list of countries with cases. A great frequently updated list can be found on BNO News.

CDC on Coronavirus: Disruption to Everyday Life Might be Severe (February 25, 2020):

The CDC is preparing for likely coronavirus outbreaks in the U.S. The CDC's Dr. Nancy Messonnier was quoted by New York Times reporter Julie Bosman as saying at a recent CDC press call that "disruption to everyday life might be severe."

Dr. Messonnier also said the CDC is preparing "as if we are going to see community spread in the near term."

Concern has been growing with the virus spreading across Europe. Italy has the most cases in Europe with over 300 confirmed Covid-19 cases and ten deaths. There are also concerning outbreaks in South Korea, Japan and Iran.

The U.S. is looking to get $2.5 billion in funding approved to battle coronavirus according to a CNBC report. The story also says the HHS estimates a need for 300 million masks. The U.S. currently has a stockpile of 30 million masks.

Senior Japanese Government Adviser Says Coronavirus Can't Be Stopped (February 25, 2020):

Japan is shifting strategies in its battle against the Covid-19 coronavirus and admitting it cannot stop the spread of the virus. The virus is proving difficult to contain completely so they are focusing more on caring for those hit hardest by the virus - the most serious cases - and slowing down the virus's spread.

A story in The Washington Post quotes Shigeru Omi, a senior Japanese government adviser, as saying, "We shouldn't have illusions. We can't stop this, but we can try to reduce the speed of expansion and reduce mortality."

The virus spreads so quickly - and sickens a large enough percentage - that there are not enough hospital beds to take care of the sickest people. Hospitals and staff quickly become overwhelmed. The seriously sick people are also staying on ventilators for extremely long periods. A Bloomberg story says, "Critical care resources in central China are being strained by coronavirus patients needing a month or more on mechanical ventilators." Tens of thousands of people requiring mechanical ventilators will overwhelm hospitals even in countries with modern healthcare systems.

A strategy of slowing down the spread can give the government time to find additional buildings to house patients in need of mechanical ventilators. This is why China has been building so many new hospitals in the past couple months. The downside is even slowing down the spread of this coronavirus appears to require drastic measures like shutting down public transportation, public events, group meetings etc., which are the types of things that keep a society running.

U.S. Now Has 53 Coronavirus Cases (February 24, 2020):

The U.S. has a total of 53 confirmed coronavirus cases. These include 14 confirmed cases that are travel-related and through person-to-person spread and another 39 repatriated cases. Of the repatriated cases 3 are from Wuhan and 36 are from the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship.

Some of the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship are clearly people who tested positive after returning home. Some of these people had been cleared through testing in Japan.

The CDC U.S. cases site says that the Diamond Princess cases are laboratory confirmed and "may or may not have been symptomatic."

The CDC still updates that page only three days a week. Information on the number of people tested is no longer provided on the CDC page but you may be able to find on state or city department of health websites.

Oman Reports First Coronavirus Cases (February 24, 2020):

Oman is confirming its first two cases of the coronavirus. Both cases are women who recently returned from Iran. Oman also announced it is halting flights between Iran, which has a more serious outbreak of Covid-19.

The New York Times is reporting that Oman says both women are in stable condition according to Oman's Health Ministry.

The outbreak in Iran is leading to a number of cases in other countries. Iran has officially confirmed 47 cases but the number is likely to be much higher based on the exported cases to other countries. Bahrain and Kuwait both recently confirmed their first cases. These cases were also people returning from Iran. There are also cases in Afghanistan according to Fox News.

Most People Hospitalized in Singapore From Coronavirus are Not Seniors (February 24, 2020):

The Singapore Ministry of Health has an informative new Covid-19 Situation Dashboard on its site. The data provided includes the ages of each the cases. The cases can also be broken down by hospitalizations.

It has been reported that the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) hits the elderly the hardest but only a few of the hospitalized cases are seniors. The data as of February, 23, 2020 shows 38 hospitalized patients. Of these only three are over seventy and just five of the 38 patients are over 60. Here is a demographic breakdown:

  • 70s - 3
  • 60s - 2
  • 50s - 11
  • 40s - 6
  • 30s - 12
  • 20s - 4
There are only 38 hospitalized cases but even the small sample shows young people are being hospitalized because of the virus. 25 of the hospitalized patients are male and 13 are female. The site says 5 of the patients are critical but the ages of the critical patients are not provided.

Here is a list of the hospitalized cases through 2-23-19:
  • Case #89 , Age 41, M, NCID
  • Case #88 , Age 30, F, NCID
  • Case #87 , Age 32, M, NCID
  • Case #86 , Age 24, M, NTFGH
  • Case #85 , Age 36, M, NCID
  • Case #82 , Age 57, F, NTFGH
  • Case #81 , Age 50, M, NCID
  • Case #80 , Age 38, F, NUH
  • Case #79 , Age 35, F, NCID
  • Case #78 , Age 57, F, NCID
  • Case #77 , Age 35, M, NCID
  • Case #75 , Age 71, F, NCID
  • Case #74 , Age 29, M, AH
  • Case #73 , Age 43, M, NCID
  • Case #72 , Age 40, M, NCID
  • Case #71 , Age 25, M, NCID
  • Case #69 , Age 26, M, NCID
  • Case #68 , Age 79, F, NCID
  • Case #67 , Age 56, F, NCID
  • Case #62 , Age 44, F, SGH
  • Case #61 , Age 57, M, NUH
  • Case #60 , Age 51, F, NCID
  • Case #59 , Age 61, M, NCID
  • Case #58 , Age 55, M, NCID
  • Case #56 , Age 30, M, NCID
  • Case #54 , Age 55, F, NCID
  • Case #53 , Age 54, M, NCID
  • Case #52 , Age 37, M, NCID
  • Case #49 , Age 46, M, NUH
  • Case #47 , Age 39, M, NCID
  • Case #46 , Age 35, M, NCID
  • Case #43 , Age 54, M, SKH
  • Case #42 , Age 39, M, NCID
  • Case #41 , Age 71, M, NCID
  • Case #37 , Age 53, M, NCID
  • Case #35 , Age 64, M, SGH
  • Case #20 , Age 48, F, NCID
  • Case #18 , Age 31, F, NCID

Bahrain and Kuwait Report First Coronavirus Cases (February 24, 2020):

Bahrain and Kuwait have reported their first cases of the novel coronavirus Covid-19. Each case involved people traveling from Iran.

Arab News reports that three people in Kuwait have been confirmed to have the virus according to Kuwait's state news agency KUNA. The cases include a Saudi national.

In Bahrain, Gulf News reports that the patient will be treated at the Ebrahim Khalil Kanoo Medical Centre. The Bahrain health ministry is monitoring contacts of the patient. The ministry is also asking anyone with Covid-19 symptoms to call 444.

The Ministry says in a statement: "The Ministry calls upon all citizens and residents who are experiencing symptoms of COVID19, including a fever, coughing and difficulty breathing, or those who have traveled to one of the countries infected with the disease or have interacted with a person traveling from any of those locations, or interacted with an infected patient, to isolate themselves, call ‪444, and follow the instructions given by the medical team, and avoid close contact with others."

The cases were exported from Iran where an outbreak of the virus is occurring. Iran has 43 confirmed cases and eight deaths.

Four Repatriated Diamond Princess Passengers Test Positive in UK (February 23, 2020):

The UK brought 32 passengers from the virus-laden Diamond Princess back home earlier this week. Four of these passengers have now tested positive for the coronaivrus. They had tested negative before leaving for England.

The passengers had been quarantined at Arrowe Park. The four patients testing positive will transferred to specialist NHS infection centers according to a Guardian report. The four cases bring the UK's total case count to 13.

The U.S. has also had repatriated passengers from the Diamond Princess test positive after initially testing negative before heading home. Axios says the CDC is expecting more of the ship's former passengers to test positive.

South Korea Coronavirus Cases Climb Quickly to 433 (February 22, 2020):

South Korea has gone from having less than 40 coronavirus cases to over 400 in just four days. There were only 35 confirmed cases on February 19th. The latest count is 433. Most of the cases are associated with the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu.

The latest press release from the KCDC says over 6,000 people are being tested for the virus. There have been two reported deaths.

CNN is reporting that 9,300 Shincheonji members are being put in self-isolation and will be tested. The New York Times is reporting that over 1,250 members of the sect have symptoms so the total coronavirus count in South Korea appears likely to climb in the coming days.

The U.S. has a Level 2: Exercise increased caution advisory out for South Korea because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Concern Grows Over Coronavirus Outbreak in Iran (February 22, 2020):

Cases and deaths from the novel coronavirus are growing in Iran. There are least 28 confirmed cases and 5 deaths. However, there is concern that there could be many more cases and deaths. There are also concerns that the virus has spread to multiple cities in Iran.

An ABC News story says the original source for Iran's outbreak could be Chinese workers building a power plant in Qom. Qom is the location of Iran's first reported case.

Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the University of Toronto, told CNBC, "The concern is that there may be significant numbers of undetected and unreported cases in Iran. And that this may be another potential global focus for disease exportation."

In the following video, Dr. John Campbell says he talked to his physician sources in Iran. His sources say there are more deaths in Iran than the 5 confirmed deaths. Campbell also says doctors are surprised at the high virulence and the rapid clinical deterioration in patients. He says he was also told to "please tell the world" about the terrible things happening in Iran. It could be that the Iranian doctors are only seeing the very worst cases and there are many more mild undetected cases.

Iran is Now Exporting Coronavirus Cases (February 21, 2020):

New deaths and cases in Iran are a sign the Covid-19 coronavirus is becoming an increasing global threat. Cases have been climbing quickly outside of China over the past few days. Iran, which only recently started reporting cases, now has 18 cases and 4 deaths.

The Iran health ministry also made a frank announcement that the coronavirus could be in all of its cities, including Tehran, Babol, Arak, Isfahan and Rasht.

Over the past 24 hours there is also evidence is exporting cases of the virus. Canada and Lebanon have both reported new cases of coronavirus. In each case the patient had recently traveled to Iran. You can read more about the new Canada case in the Globe and Mail.

Mayor of Daegu, South Korea Says City Facing Unprecedented Crisis Over Coronavirus (February 20, 2020):

The mayor of Daegu, South Korea says the city is in an "unprecedented crisis" after dozens of new coronavirus (Covid-19) cases were reported. Daegu has a population of 2.5 million. The city has shutdown kindergartens and public libraries. The mayor has also asked people to stay indoors.

The Guardian is reporting that shopping malls and movie theaters are empty in Daegu. A major BTS concert set for March 8th was postponed.

There are a total of 87 coronavirus cases in South Korea but most of them have been reported in recent days. As The Telegraph reports at least 40 of these cases were caused by a super-spreader at a church service. Many of the contacts from these cases have been isolated but with cases spiking Daegu's mayor and health officials are likely concerned there could be unknown contacts and/or infected persons elsewhere in the city. Reducing crowds and public gatherings can help limit the numbers of cases.

A super-spreader patient was also responsible for spreading MERS - another type of coronavirus - in South Korea in 2015.

These latest cases along with recent cases in Japan and aboard the Diamond Princess ship are evidence (outside of China) that the Covid-19 coronavirus is capable of spreading quickly.

Iran Reported Two Coronavirus Deaths (February 19, 2020):

Iran has reported its first two cases of the coronavirus. Both of the cases resulted in the deaths of the patients.

A report on U.S. News says the patients were elderly patients of Qom. The source is the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

The IRNA also quotes health ministry official Kiyanoush Jahanpour as saying "some suspected cases" of Covid-19 have been found over the past two days. That sounds like more than two cases but only two cases have been confirmed so far.

There is a message on the IRNA website that says Iranians should get their news on the coronavirus epidemic through the Ministry of Health, Treatment and Medical Education.

South Korea Reports 15 New Coronavirus Cases (February 18, 2020):

South Korea's coronavirus cases jumped today with the report of 15 new cases. The new cases bring the total in South Korea to 46.

The new cases were announced in a press release from the KCDC. The release says over 10,000 people have been tested for the virus. The vast majority of them have tested negative.

Ten of the new cases are part of a cluster and linked to the 31st case. SCMP reports that the cluster involves people attending the same church.

South Korea has banned foreigners from China's province of Hubei but not from China's other provinces. The number of cases outside mainland China has passed the 1,000 mark. Most of the confirmed cases are from Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Thailand and the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

WHO China Coronavirus Visit Won't Include Hubei and Wuhan (February 17, 2020):

China has finally agreed to allow experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) into China to get a closer look at the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak. Unfortunately, the WHO experts are not being allowed into the Hubei province, which is where the largest number of cases can be found.

The large city of Wuhan in Hubei is considered to be the epicenter of the outbreak. The outbreak was initially linked to a seafood market in Hubei. By not allowing the WHO to visit the epicenter it will limit the information they can obtain and add fuel to bioweapon conspiracy theories.

An article on China's Global Times website says Hubei is too busy combating the virus to receive the experts. The article says, "The epidemic-stricken Hubei is not included in the international expert team's destinations, which, according to experts, is because the province is at a vital time combating the epidemic, and cannot spare time and people to receive the experts."

This makes little sense because experts are exactly who you want when you are are dealing with a crisis, especially a novel crisis.

Reuters reports that WHO experts are now in Beijing, China and will visit the provinces of Guangdong and Sichua. There is no mention of them getting to visit Hubei in this story either. China has also refused to let CDC officials into the country.

Hopefully, the experts from the WHO will somehow be able to talk the Chinese officials into letting them into Hubei while they are in the country.

Aircraft Returning U.S. Passengers from Diamond Princess Includes 14 Confirmed to Have Coronavirus (February 17, 2020):

The U.S. is returning its citizens from the virus-laden Diamond Princess cruise ship on two chartered aircraft. The cruise ship has been quarantined near Tokyo. Over 450 of the 3700 plus people aboard the ship have tested positive for the coronavirus (Covid-19). Some of them are reported to be seriously ill.

Over 40 U.S. ship passengers already confirmed to have the coronavirus (Covid-19) were not allowed to board the aircraft. They will be cared for in Japan. Another 14 U.S. citizens were confirmed to have the virus by Japanese officials at the last minute as the planes were getting ready to leave. These passengers were allowed to remain on the planes. They are being isolated from the other passengers according to a U.S. statement.

The U.S. says, "After consultation with HHS officials, including experts from the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the State Department made the decision to allow the 14 individuals, who were in isolation, separated from other passengers, and continued to be asymptomatic, to remain on the aircraft to complete the evacuation process. During the flights, these individuals will continue to be isolated from the other passengers."

Over 300 U.S. citizens are returning on the aircraft. They will deplane at either Travis AFB or Joint Base San Antonio. The U.S. says it will keep them in quarantine for 14 days.

The number of infected from the cruise ship has been climbing daily. The returning passengers will likely undergo additional testing for the virus while in quarantine. Even though they face additional quarantine time the passengers are probably happy to be off the ship and back home.

The U.S. has not specified which of the two locations will be receiving the patients confirmed to have the virus.

Passenger From MS Westerdam Cruise Ship Tests Positive for Coronavirus (February 15, 2020):

A passenger from the MS Westerdam cruise ship has tested positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus. The cruise ship had nearly 1,500 passengers and was denied entry at several Asian ports over the past few days before finally docking in Cambodia.

An 83-year-old U.S. woman from the ship has tested positive for the virus in Malaysia according the South China Morning Post. The Malaysia Health Ministry confirmed the new case. The woman flew from Cambodia to Malaysia on Friday after departing the ship.

Cambodia had claimed that none of the passengers tested positive for the virus but it is not clear how many of them were tested. A Reuters report says only 20 were tested when the ship docked. The ship also claimed there were no coronavirus patients aboard according to a USA Today story.

This is a different ship than the Diamond Princess cruise ship where 285 people have been confirmed to have contracted the virus. Given how quickly the coranavirus spread around the Diamond Princess it seems unlikely that this woman was the only infected person aboard the Westerdam ship. To contain the virus it will now be necessary to track down all the Westerdam passengers and crew and test them. Their contacts will also need to be traced should any of them test positive.

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