The fifth case in the U.S. of the deadly coronavirus was confirmed in Arizona, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Sunday.
Cases of the virus in the U.S. have been reported in Washington state, Chicago, California’s Los Angeles County and Orange County, and Arizona.
All infected individuals recently traveled to Wuhan, China, where the virus originated. Scientists in Wuhan believe the virus originated in bats, similar to the deadly Ebola virus, which killed thousands in West Africa several years ago.
The news comes as Chinese health minister Ma Xiaowei warned that the virus can spread during its incubation period, about two weeks, before infected individuals are experiencing symptoms.
“At present, the rate of development of the epidemic is accelerating,” Ma said at a press conference. “I am afraid that it will continue for some time, and the number of cases may increase.”
However, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, appeared skeptical about Ma’s claim.
“We at CDC don’t have clear evidence that patients are infectious before symptom onset, but we are actively investigating that possibility,” she said.
The virus, which causes serious respiratory infection, has killed at least 81 people so far and infected 2,744.
“As with other respiratory illnesses, there are steps that everyone can take to reduce the risk of getting sick from circulating viruses, including coronavirus. This includes remaining home when ill, washing hands with soap and water frequently, and getting vaccinated against flu,” said Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.
The U.S. plans to evacuate about three dozen U.S. diplomats and their families from Wuhan on Tuesday on a medically staffed flight that will land in California.
U.S. federal and state officials are contacting anyone who may have been exposed to the virus by the infected individuals.