A United Airlines flight from San Francisco has been placed on lockdown after landing in London after passengers on board complained of having coronavirus symptoms.
Passengers on United Airlines Flight 901 were told by the captain to remain in their seats after landing at Heathrow Airport on Friday morning because someone might have the contagious infection, which is now named SARS-CoV-2.
So far, the US has confirmed 15 cases of the deadly coronavirus, including the latest patient, a quarantined individual in San Antonio, Texas, diagnosed Thursday. Eight of the patients are in California, where San Francisco International Airport is one of 11 through which all flights to the US from China are being funneled to screen passengers.
The flight was among eight planes simultaneously put on lockdown on the Heathrow tarmac after it arrived from San Francisco.
British passenger Andy West told MailOnline that passengers were warned by the plane’s captain that they could be on the tarmac for a while because ‘seven other planes’ also had suspected cases.
He revealed staff on the flight took a passenger to the back of the plane without wearing any protective gear or face masks and waited for health officials to come. Everyone was eventually allowed to disembark half-an-hour later.
London has been on red alert for more cases after the capital suffered its first confirmed patient on Wednesday. Almost 65,000 patients around the world have now caught the virus and nearly 1,400 have died.
Passengers on United Airlines Flight 901 were told by the captain to remain in their seats after landing at Heathrow Airport on Friday morning because someone might have the contagious infection, which is now named SARS-CoV-2. The flight was met with staff in hazmat suits
Other developments in the coronavirus outbreak today include:
- China reported another spike in deaths and cases yesterday with 121 succumbing to the virus and 5,090 people catching it
- Some 1,700 health care workers in China have been diagnosed with coronavirus
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is awaiting the test results for 66 possible patients in 41 states and territories
- Americans quarantined after returning from Wuhan, China are petitioning to test all of them – not just those with symptoms – for coronavirus
- US Navy and Marine Corps have been instructed to ‘prepare for a coronavirus pandemic’
- The family of eight-month-old James Adlam, from Worthing, West Sussex, will find out today if the toddler has coronavirus
- Top scientists have ruled out the coronavirus was engineered, dispelling rumors the virus had escaped from a lab
- Churchgoers were urged to avoid communion wine and shaking hands if they have ‘coughs and sneezes’ in coronavirus warning
- Amazon and eBay have been accused of cashing in on the coronavirus outbreak with comedy T-shirts making fun of the crisis
West, a chief development officer at the PR agency Hotwire, said he knew something was wrong when a fire engine drove to meet the plane on the tarmac and the aircraft was not allowed to park at the terminal.
So far, 15 people in the US have been diagnosed with coronavirus. The latest patient was quarantined in Texas. The majority – eight – of the cases are in California, where San Francisco International Airport is one of 11 airports through which flights to the US from China are being funneled to screen passengers for coronavirus
Andy West, from Henley-on-Thames, told MailOnline passengers were warned they could be on the tarmac for a while because ‘seven other planes’ also had suspected cases
United flight 901 remains on the ground at Heathrow under suspicion passengers could have coronavirus, but the other runways are reportedly operational
Nearly 1,400 patients have been killed by coronavirus since the outbreak began in Wuhan
Almost 65,000 patients around the world have now caught the virus after China reported 5,000 new cases yesterday
US STATES WITH CORONAVIRUS CASES
- First case, male, 30s, released from hospital
- Two cases, husband and wife, 60s, first case of human-to-human transmission in the US
- Eight cases
- Husband and wife in their 50s are second case of human-to-human transmission
- Three patients are quarantined travelers
- One patient, college student
- One case, male in his 20s
- One unidentified person in Madison
He said his mind ‘started to race’ and worry set in when he heard the contagious disease could be on board.
‘We landed at about 9am and the captain came on the tannoy to say three was a suspected coronavirus patient on board,’ he said.
‘I think the passenger was taken right to the back of the plane, so I didn’t get to see what they looked like.
‘We were told to stay sat until authorities came on board, and he [the captain] said that seven other flights had landed and had a similar situation.
‘I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried, my mind started to race.’
West said staff were not wearing any protective clothing including face masks when they took the sick passenger to the back of the plane.
Everyone was told to fill in a Health England health form which quizzed people about their recent travel history, symptoms and contact details.
They were let off 25 minutes later but the sick person was kept behind and their luggage was separated from the other passengers’, West said.
He added that travelers were told they’d be contacted if they were suspected of having coronavirus, adding: ‘There was no forward looking, no information about what we can expect or if we will hear from someone.
‘So I think no news will be good news because I doubt they’ll contact us if they don’t suspect we have it. But it would be nice to hear we have nothing to worry about.’
Heathrow Airport refused to comment. Heathrow is believed to be running as normal, with all runways open.
It was previously revealed one of Britain’s nine confirmed coronavirus cases attended a Westminster bus conference just a stone’s throw from Parliament
THE AMERICAN CORONAVIRUS PATIENTS
So far, 15 people in the US have been confirmed to have coronavirus in seven states.
The first American with coronavirus was a man in his 30s who did not have symptoms of the infection while traveling back to the US from China.
He recognized his own symptoms and sought medical attention and his diagnosis was confirmed on January 21.
The patient received an experimental treatment – a drug designed for use in Ebola patients – while hospitalized.
On February 4, the man was released, and is considered cured of his symptoms. He remains in isolation at his home as an extra precaution for containment.
A woman in her 60s who traveled to Wuhan, China, was diagnosed with coronavirus on January 25, becoming the second American patient.
She had hardly left her home, so her contacts were limited. However, on January 30, officials confirmed that she had infected her husband, who tested postive for coronavirus.
The couple marked the first case of human-to-human transmission of the virus in the US.
After being hospitalized and treated, the pair were released to home self-isolation on February 7, and said in a statement that they were ‘definitely looking forward to getting home and getting life back to normal.’
California’s first case was confirmed on January 26 in Orange County. Like the previously confirmed patients, the man, who is in his 50s, had recently traveled to China, marking the third US diagnoses.
Michigan resident Amanda Ulmen has a pre-existing medical condition, making her more vulnerable to coronavirus. She’s been wearing a mask in the hopes of protecting herself from infection, but says Dearborn police confronted her when she wore the mask into a bank
Coronavirus patients have been confirmed in Texas, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Arizona, Washington, Illinois and California, where eight of the 15 patients are located
Arizona reported its first case – the nation’s fourth – on January 26 as well. The state revealed that the patient is a male in his 20s who lives in Maricopa county and attends Arizona State University, but did not live in campus dormitories.
Also that Sunday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that a case of coronavirus had been confirmed in Los Angeles. That patient, a man in his 50s has since been released from the hospital, on February 1, and remains in at-home isolation.
On January 30, the CDC confirmed the Chicago woman had infected her husband, and on January 31, an adult man was confirmed to have traveled to China and returned with coronavirus, becoming the seventh case in the US.
Another male in his 20s was diagnosed in Massachusetts on February 1. He lives somewhere in the Boston area and was the first case diagnosed on the East Coast of the US.
California reported a second case in Santa Clara on February 2. The person is a female, but not known to be connected to the previously diagnosed man in the county.
Patient number 11 was confirmed on February 2 as well. The wife of the traveler diagnosed in San Benito, the woman was the second instance of human-to-human transmission in the US.
Madison, Wisconsin health officials have not revealed details of the 12th US patient’s identity, except to say that the person had been somewhere in China for the New Year, contracted the disease and is recovering well.
The 13th, 14th, and 15th patients – the first two in California, the latter in Texas – are all patients who were quarantined after being evacuated from Wuhan.
HOW THE US IS TRYING TO STOP THE SPREAD OF CORONAVIRUS
In an effort to mitigate risks of more cases of coronavirus in the US, all flights arriving from China have been funneled through 11 airports:
- John F Kennedy International Airport in New York
- Chicago O’Hare International Airport
- Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
- San Francisco International Airport
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
- Daniel K Inouye International Airport in Honolulu
- Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
- Newark International Airport in New Jersey
- Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
- Detroit Metro Airport
- Washington Dulles International Airport
These airports are now equipped with enhanced screening.
Quarantines have been set up at military bases near each of these airports.
Five flights were chartered by the US State Department to repatriate Americans trapped in locked-down Wuhan.
More than 800 passengers were quarantined after arriving on those flights. The first 195 arrivals have completed their two-week holding period and were released Tuesday.
About 600 people remain in quarantines at March Air Reserve, Travis Air Base and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California, Lackland Air Force Base in Texas and Camp Ashland in Nebraska.
The White House has also barred anyone who is not a citizen or close family member of a citizen and has traveled in China within the past two weeks from entering the US, effective starting at 5pm Sunday February 2.
Any US citizens who has been to mainland China in the past two weeks and returns to one of the 11 airports is screened for potential coronavirus exposures and asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.
The CDC has distributed tests to more than 100 labs across the US, but will have to reissue a component after quality assurance testing of some revealed they were returning ‘inconclusive’ results.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE DEADLY CORONAVIRUS IN CHINA?
Someone who is infected with the coronavirus can spread it with just a simple cough or a sneeze, scientists say.
More than 1,380 people with the virus are now confirmed to have died and more than 64,400 have been infected in at least 28 countries and regions. But experts predict the true number of people with the disease could be as high as 350,000 in Wuhan alone, as they warn it may kill as many as two in 100 cases. Here’s what we know so far:
What is the coronavirus?
A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. Viruses break into cells inside their host and use them to reproduce itself and disrupt the body’s normal functions. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word ‘corona’, which means crown, because they are encased by a spiked shell which resembles a royal crown.
The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It has been named SARS-CoV-2 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. The name stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2.
Experts say the bug, which has killed around one in 50 patients since the outbreak began in December, is a ‘sister’ of the SARS illness which hit China in 2002, so has been named after it.
The disease that the virus causes has been named COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019.
Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: ‘Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals.
‘Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses).
‘Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known.’
The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started publicly reporting infections on December 31.
By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.
The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000.
Just a week after that, there had been more than 800 confirmed cases and those same scientists estimated that some 4,000 – possibly 9,700 – were infected in Wuhan alone. By that point, 26 people had died.
By January 27, more than 2,800 people were confirmed to have been infected, 81 had died, and estimates of the total number of cases ranged from 100,000 to 350,000 in Wuhan alone.
By January 29, the number of deaths had risen to 132 and cases were in excess of 6,000.
By February 5, there were more than 24,000 cases and 492 deaths.
By February 11, this had risen to more than 43,000 cases and 1,000 deaths.
A change in the way cases are confirmed on February 13 – doctors decided to start using lung scans as a formal diagnosis, as well as laboratory tests – caused a spike in the number of cases, to more than 60,000 and to 1,369 deaths.
Where does the virus come from?
According to scientists, the virus has almost certainly come from bats. Coronaviruses in general tend to originate in animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to have originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.
The first cases of COVID-19 came from people visiting or working in a live animal market in the city, which has since been closed down for investigation.
Although the market is officially a seafood market, other dead and living animals were being sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat.
A study by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, published in February 2020 in the scientific journal Nature, found that the genetic make-up virus samples found in patients in China is 96 per cent similar to a coronavirus they found in bats.
However, there were not many bats at the market so scientists say it was likely there was an animal which acted as a middle-man, contracting it from a bat before then transmitting it to a human. It has not yet been confirmed what type of animal this was.
Dr Michael Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, was not involved with the research but said: ‘The discovery definitely places the origin of nCoV in bats in China.
‘We still do not know whether another species served as an intermediate host to amplify the virus, and possibly even to bring it to the market, nor what species that host might have been.’
So far the fatalities are quite low. Why are health experts so worried about it?
Experts say the international community is concerned about the virus because so little is known about it and it appears to be spreading quickly.
It is similar to SARS, which infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in an outbreak in Asia in 2003, in that it is a type of coronavirus which infects humans’ lungs.
Another reason for concern is that nobody has any immunity to the virus because they’ve never encountered it before. This means it may be able to cause more damage than viruses we come across often, like the flu or common cold.
Speaking at a briefing in January, Oxford University professor, Dr Peter Horby, said: ‘Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than viruses which circulate all the time because we have no immunity to them.
‘Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we’re talking about a virus where we don’t understand fully the severity spectrum but it’s possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent.’
If the death rate is truly two per cent, that means two out of every 100 patients who get it will die.
‘My feeling is it’s lower,’ Dr Horby added. ‘We’re probably missing this iceberg of milder cases. But that’s the current circumstance we’re in.
‘Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 so it is a significant concern globally.’
How does the virus spread?
The illness can spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection. And it may also spread even before someone has symptoms.
It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky.
Originally, people were thought to be catching it from a live animal market in Wuhan city. But cases soon began to emerge in people who had never been there, which forced medics to realise it was spreading from person to person.
There is now evidence that it can spread third hand – to someone from a person who caught it from another person.
What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?
Once someone has caught the COVID-19 virus it may take between two and 14 days, or even longer, for them to show any symptoms – but they may still be contagious during this time.
If and when they do become ill, typical signs include a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and a fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients – at least 97 per cent, based on available data – will recover from these without any issues or medical help.
In a small group of patients, who seem mainly to be the elderly or those with long-term illnesses, it can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the insides of the lungs swell up and fill with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if left untreated, can be fatal and suffocate people.
What have genetic tests revealed about the virus?
Scientists in China have recorded the genetic sequences of around 19 strains of the virus and released them to experts working around the world.
This allows others to study them, develop tests and potentially look into treating the illness they cause.
Examinations have revealed the coronavirus did not change much – changing is known as mutating – much during the early stages of its spread.
However, the director-general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said the virus was mutating and adapting as it spread through people.
This means efforts to study the virus and to potentially control it may be made extra difficult because the virus might look different every time scientists analyse it.
More study may be able to reveal whether the virus first infected a small number of people then change and spread from them, or whether there were various versions of the virus coming from animals which have developed separately.
How dangerous is the virus?
The virus has so far killed 1,383 people out of a total of at least 64,441 officially confirmed cases – a death rate of around two per cent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish Flu outbreak which, in 1918, went on to kill around 50million people.
However, experts say the true number of patients is likely considerably higher and therefore the death rate considerably lower. Imperial College London researchers estimate that there were 4,000 (up to 9,700) cases in Wuhan city alone up to January 18 – officially there were only 444 there to that date. If cases are in fact 100 times more common than the official figures, the virus may be far less dangerous than currently believed, but also far more widespread.
Experts say it is likely only the most seriously ill patients are seeking help and are therefore recorded – the vast majority will have only mild, cold-like symptoms. For those whose conditions do become more severe, there is a risk of developing pneumonia which can destroy the lungs and kill you.
Can the virus be cured?
The COVID-19 virus cannot currently be cured and it is proving difficult to contain.
Antibiotics do not work against viruses, so they are out of the question. Antiviral drugs can work, but the process of understanding a virus then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.
No vaccine exists for the coronavirus yet and it’s not likely one will be developed in time to be of any use in this outbreak, for similar reasons to the above.
The National Institutes of Health in the US, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this may take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.
Currently, governments and health authorities are working to contain the virus and to care for patients who are sick and stop them infecting other people.
People who catch the illness are being quarantined in hospitals, where their symptoms can be treated and they will be away from the uninfected public.
And airports around the world are putting in place screening measures such as having doctors on-site, taking people’s temperatures to check for fevers and using thermal screening to spot those who might be ill (infection causes a raised temperature).
However, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so there is only a small likelihood that patients will be spotted up in an airport.
Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?
The outbreak is an epidemic, which is when a disease takes hold of one community such as a country or region.
Although it has spread to dozens of countries, the outbreak is not yet classed as a pandemic, which is defined by the World Health Organization as the ‘worldwide spread of a new disease’.
The head of WHO’s global infectious hazard preparedness, Dr Sylvie Briand, said: ‘Currently we are not in a pandemic. We are at the phase where it is an epidemic with multiple foci, and we try to extinguish the transmission in each of these foci,’ the Guardian reported.
She said that most cases outside of Hubei had been ‘spillover’ from the epicentre, so the disease wasn’t actually spreading actively around the world.