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US reports 1st case of person-to-person spread of new virus

View of St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates, Illinois on January 24, 2020 where a Chicago woman affected by the coronavirus is treated in isolation. - Officials announced the second confirmed case of coronavirus in the United States is a woman in the Chicago area. (Photo by Derek R. HENKLE / AFP) (Photo by DEREK R. HENKLE/AFP via Getty Images)
Derek R. Henkle/AFP via Getty Images
St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, where a Chicago woman affected by the coronavirus was treated in isolation.

NEW YORK (AP) — Health officials Thursday reported the first U.S. case of person-to-person spread of the new virus from China.

The individual is married to the Chicago woman who got sick from the virus after she returned from a trip to Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak. There have been cases reported of the infectious virus spreading to others in a household or workplace in China and elsewhere.

The new case is the sixth reported in the United States. The other five were travelers who developed the illness after returning to the U.S. from China. The latest patient had not been in China.

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The Chicago woman, who is in her 60s, returned from central China on Jan. 13, then last week went to a hospital with symptoms and was diagnosed with the viral illness. She and her husband are hospitalized.

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Experts have said they expected additional cases, and that at least some limited spread of the disease in the United States was likely. Health officials think the new virus spreads mainly from droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how the flu spreads.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Illinois health officials announced the case Thursday.

At a press briefing last Friday, the CDC’s Dr. Nancy Messonnier said: ‘‘We are likely going to see some cases among close contacts of travelers and human-to-human transmission.”

The virus can cause fever, coughing, wheezing and pneumonia. It is a member of the coronavirus family that’s a close cousin to the SARS and MERS viruses that have caused outbreaks in the past. The new virus has sickened thousands, mostly in China, and killed about 170.

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An international outbreak caused by the virus first emerged last month in China. Doctors there began seeing the new virus in people who got sick after spending time at a wholesale food market in Wuhan. Officials said the virus probably initially spread from animals to people, as did SARS and MERS.