Reuters) – Nearly 200 Americans were placed under quarantine after being evacuated from Wuhan, China, to a U.S. air base in California, U.S. health officials said on Friday, hoping to prevent the spread of coronavirus that originated in that city.
“We are preparing as if this is the next pandemic, but we are hoping that is not the case,” said Nancy Messonnier, director of National Center For Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, in a telephone interview from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
The CDC announced the 14-day quarantine order, which applies to 195 repatriated individuals, a day after the U.S. State Department issued its strongest warning against travel to China due to an epidemic of the new virus, which has claimed more than 200 lives.
CDC officials said they were waiting for test results to determine if any of the individuals had the virus but had issued the quarantine order, the agency’s first in 50 years, out of an abundance of caution.
The U.S. citizens arrived on Wednesday at March Air Reserve Base near Los Angeles on a government-chartered flight from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, and were initially placed under 72-hour voluntary observation for signs of infection.
The World Health Organization declared a global health emergency on Thursday over the spread of the respiratory disease.
There have been six confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S., and health officials announced the first incident of person-to-person spread of the disease on Thursday in Illinois.
Earlier on Friday, the New York Health commissioner said there were no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the city, following a report of a possible case at a hospital in the city’s Queens borough.
Additional reporting by Manas Mishra and Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel and David Gregorio