The Trump administration announced the imposition of additional travel restrictions on Iran, Italy, and South Korea due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) concerns on Saturday, February 29, as the US recorded its first death from the illness in Washington state's King county. Due to the spread of COVID-19 in Iran, Vice President Mike Pence announced that foreign nationals who have visited Iran within the last 14 days would be banned entry to the US; the move comes amid an existing travel ban imposed by the Trump administration on the Islamic Republic. The US Department of State has also increased its travel advisory to "Level 4 - Do Not Travel" to the Italian regions of Lombardy and Veneto, as well as the South Korean city of Daegu due to the "level of community transmission of the virus and imposition of local quarantine procedures."
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), three new cases of COVID-19 announced on Saturday bring the total number of currently known cases in the US confirmed by health authorities to 22. Washington state Governor Jay Inslee has declared a state of emergency to mobilize state agencies to use additional resources to prepare for and respond to the spread of COVID-19.
Further international spread of COVID-19 is to be expected over the coming days and weeks.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On February 28, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the risk of spread and the risk of impact of the virus is "very high" at the global level.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and trouble breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Potentially impacted travelers are advised to monitor the situation, confirm travel itineraries, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments. To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, seek medical care urgently and share your previous travel history with your health care provider.
In the case that symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness emerge either during or after travel, travelers are encouraged to seek medical attention and share their travel history with their health care provider. Travelers returning from China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran who develop symptoms of pneumonia are advised to call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.