Chicago woman with coronavirus 'doing well' in isolation at Hoffman Estates hospital

  • Chicago and state officials, including Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady, at podium, Illinois Chief Medical Officer Jennifer Layden and Chicago Department of Aviation Deputy Commissioner Andrew Velasquez, third from right, discuss a confirmed Chicago case of a dangerous virus that causes pneumonia Friday.

      Chicago and state officials, including Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady, at podium, Illinois Chief Medical Officer Jennifer Layden and Chicago Department of Aviation Deputy Commissioner Andrew Velasquez, third from right, discuss a confirmed Chicago case of a dangerous virus that causes pneumonia Friday. Marni Pyke | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 1/24/2020 10:12 PM

A Chicago woman is the first Illinoisan to contract a dangerous virus that causes pneumonia, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

The woman, in her 60s, is the second American to be infected with a coronavirus originating in the Wuhan region of China.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Chicago resident, who is "clinically doing well," had traveled to Wuhan earlier in the month and her diagnosis was confirmed late Thursday, Chicago officials said at a news conference Friday.

The woman is being treated at Amita St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates, Amita Health spokesman Timothy Nelson said. ABC 7 Chicago reported that the Chicago woman is at this hospital because her regular doctor works there.

"The patient is being monitored in isolation, in accordance with established infection control protocols," read part of a statement Friday from Nelson. "We have contacted the small number of patients and staff who may have come into contact with the patient."

"Given the advanced information and training provided by the CDC, our staff was well-prepared to care for this patient," the statement said. Amita Health is "working closely" with the CDC as well as the state and Chicago health departments.

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The general public is not at risk and the news should not cause alarm, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady said. But "we're taking this very seriously as with any coronavirus."

She noted the city and state benefitted from lessons learned during the Ebola virus outbreak in 2014 when health and airport officials were on alert for potential cases in Illinois.

CDC workers began health screenings of people on flights from the Wuhan area Thursday night at O'Hare International Airport. O'Hare is one of five airports across the U.S. where screenings are occurring.

The woman arrived at O'Hare Jan. 13 and "started developing symptoms three to four days later," said Arwady, a physician.

After visiting her doctor, the woman was hospitalized and is being kept in a special isolation unit. The "patient was never critically ill, at least at this point," Arwady said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Experts believe the incubation period for the coronavirus can be as long as 14 days, and people on the plane with her were not at risk.

Chicago health authorities are checking contacts she made after arrival but said the woman stayed mostly at home after returning to the U.S. The people she did interact with are currently well, officials said.

Sixty-three Americans across 22 states are being monitored for the virus, authorities said.

U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth said in a joint statement that CDC experts were talking with the patient and her family "in order to quarantine any potential spread."

"We are in the earliest stages of measuring the impact of novel coronavirus, but it is being taken very seriously."

Meanwhile, Gov. J.B. Pritzer advised residents to use precautions as they do during flu season -- washing hands and checking with a doctor if symptoms such as fever, coughing and shortness of breath occur.

Screening at O'Hare by federal health workers "will impact a very limited group of travelers, and the broader traveling public and airport employees are not at risk," Chicago Department of Aviation Commissioner Jamie Rhee said this week.

Travelers at O'Hare do not need to take special precautions and will not be affected unless their flights are departing to or arriving from the Wuhan region of China, officials said.

"Travelers from Wuhan, China, will be escorted to an area of the airport set aside for screening," CDC spokesman Scott Pauley said.

Passengers will complete a brief questionnaire that asks about their travel history and health, and collects contact information.

"CDC staff will observe these travelers for signs of illness and take travelers' temperatures using noncontact thermometers," Pauley said.

Travelers with fever, cough or trouble breathing might undergo additional assessments.

The CDC also is screening passengers at San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York's John F. Kennedy and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta international airports.

"In coordination with the CDC, Customs and Border Protection has measures already in place to identify travelers with overt signs of illness at ports of entry who may be potentially infected with a communicable disease and to minimize the risk to the traveling public," CDC spokesman Steven Bansbach said.

Coronaviruses are described as a "family" of viruses causing respiratory problems that include the common cold.

One coronavirus, however, was severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, a respiratory infection that resulted in a global outbreak in 2003, killing 774 people, according to the World Health Organization.

There's a lot scientists don't yet know about the new coronavirus.

"While originally thought to be spreading from animal to person, there are growing indications that limited person-to-person spread is happening. It's unclear how easily this virus is spreading between people," CDC officials said.

Chinese authorities estimate the virus, first detected in December, has infected about more than 1,200 people people in China and caused more than 40 deaths. Other cases have been reported in Thailand, Japan and South Korea.

Those most susceptible are older people and those with health problems and compromised immune systems, preliminary information indicates.

Authorities noted that despite the fatalities, other patients have been treated and released.

• Daily Herald staff writer Harry Hitzeman contributed to this report.

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