Two more patients under quarantine for coronavirus at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar were taken to local hospitals Friday for evaluation after developing a fever or cough, bringing the total number of patients transported from the base to hospitals to seven.
An adult was taken to a UC San Diego Health facility and a child to Rady Children’s Hospital, according Tom Skinner of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A 4-year-old girl and another patient taken to Rady Children’s on Wednesday to stay under observation for coronavirus tested negative for the illness and returned to 14-day quarantine at the air station.
Meanwhile, a second plane carrying 65 evacuees from Wuhan landed at Miramar at 8:50 a.m. after a brief stopover in Vancouver. The patients were screened by CDC personnel and did not appear to show any symptoms, so were allowed to join on-base facilities for the duration of their quarantine.
The first flight arrived Wednesday with 167 evacuees, five of whom were later hospitalized after developing symptoms that warranted further observation for possible exposure to the coronavirus from China.
Dr. John Bradley, medical director of infectious diseases at Rady, said there was no threat to the public at large nor to other patients in either facility.
“Nobody who comes to Rady or UCSD has to worry at all, even if the patients test positive — which is unlikely,” he said. “We have really good isolation policies and they are in special rooms designed for Ebola, which is far worse than coronavirus.”
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. Francesca Torriani, the program director of infection prevention at UCSD Health, urged the public to show compassion and patience.
“Remember, these are American citizens who have already gone through a lot,” Torriani said. “We are going to welcome them and make life as good as possible.”
Torriani 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. It was later reported by multiple outlets that he died.
President Donald Trump tweeted early Friday that he “just had a long and very good conversation by phone with President Xi of China. He is strong, sharp and powerfully focused on leading the counterattack on the Coronavirus. He feels they are doing very well, even building hospitals in a matter of only days. Nothing is easy, but he will be successful, especially as the weather starts to warm & the virus hopefully becomes weaker, and then gone. Great discipline is taking place in China, as President Xi strongly leads what will be a very successful operation. We are working closely with China to help!”
Bradley and Torriani 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.
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 was later cleared and allowed to return.
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 in California, including one case each in Los Angeles and Orange counties. Temporary quarantine and processing sites have been established at major airports, including Los Angeles International Airport.
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.
Updated at 6 p.m., Friday, Feb. 7, 2020
–City News Service