Coronavirus victim turned himself in after reading news article

The United States announced its first case of the new Wuhan coronavirus that has claimed lives in China and sickened hundreds, joining countries around the world in ramping up measures to block its spread.

The man, a US resident in his 30s who lives near Seattle, is in good condition, according to federal and state officials who made the confirmation on Tuesday (local time), and approached authorities himself after reading about the SARS-like infection in news reports.

He is "currently hospitalised out of an abundance of precaution, and for short-term monitoring, not because there was severe illness", Chris Spitters, a Washington state health official, said.

"This is an evolving situation and again, we do expect additional patients in the United States and globally," Nancy Messonier, a senior official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), added.

Workers spray antiseptic solution at the arrival lobby of Incheon airport amid rising public concerns over the possible spread of a new coronavirus. Source: Suh Myung-geon/Yonhap via AP

She stressed the overall risk to Americans remained low.

The man is originally from Wuhan and returned to the US on January 15, two days before health officials began screening passengers at major airports arriving from the central Chinese city, which is at the heart of the outbreak. The efforts are to be extended now to a total of five US airports.

In Australia, biosecurity measures have been ramped up for flights into the country from China, and the city of Wuhan in particular, after a Brisbane man tested for the virus was released from isolation.

Health authorities confirmed on Wednesday the man did not have the deadly coronavirus.

A number of Australians have been tested for the deadly coronavirus but there are no confirmed cases, the federal health minister says.

Australia receives three flights from Wuhan per week which would be monitored closely, he said.

Fears of bigger outbreak

According to US health authorities, the man lives alone and will be monitored in isolation for at least 48 more hours.

Doctors began to suspect he had coronavirus as his symptoms matched those associated with the illness and his recent visit to China. Tests confirmed he had the virus on Monday (local time), CNN reported.

The development came as countries intensified their efforts to stop the spread of the pathogen – known by its technical name 2019 Novel Coronavirus – as the number of cases surpass 400 with nine people confirmed dead in China on Tuesday, raising concerns in the middle of a major Chinese holiday travel rush.

Fears of a bigger outbreak rose after a prominent expert from China's National Health Commission confirmed late on Monday the virus can be passed between people.

A government worker directs traffic at a toll gate in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province. Source: Feature China/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

That conclusion is shared by the CDC, which said "person-to-person spread is occurring, although it's unclear how easily the virus spreads between people".

The World Health Organisation (WHO) will hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday to determine whether to declare a rare, global public health emergency over the disease, which has also been detected in Thailand, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

Many experts believe the US case, while not surprising given the frequency of international flights, makes such a declaration all the more likely.

Mark Woolhouse, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, said more evidence was needed to determine if it spreads through the air or via close human-to-human contact.

"It is important to stress that, though similar, it is not as severe an infection as its predecessor, the SARS coronavirus," he added.

Holiday rush

Early on, many patients had some link to a Wuhan seafood market where live animals were sold, suggesting an animal-to-person spread.

Hundreds of millions of people are criss-crossing China this week in packed buses, trains and planes to celebrate the Lunar New Year with relatives.

More than 80 new cases have been confirmed, bringing the total number of people hit by the virus in China to 315, with the vast majority in Hubei, the province where Wuhan lies, according to officials.

But cases have also been confirmed around the country, including Beijing and Shanghai.

Chris Spitters, Interim Health Officer for Snohomish Health District, talks about a confirmed case of 2019 novel coronavirus in Washington Source: Jason Redmond/AFP

The first case on the self-ruled island of Taiwan was also confirmed Tuesday, with a woman taken to hospital on arrival at the airport from Wuhan.

China's National Health Commission said 440 people in 13 Chinese provinces are confirmed to be infected with a new coronavirus as of Tuesday, with nine deaths.

The coronavirus has caused alarm because of its genetic similarities to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

Fever checks

At four airports in Thailand, authorities introduced mandatory thermal scans of passengers arriving from high-risk areas of China.

In Hong Kong, authorities said they were on "extreme high alert," with passengers from Wuhan required to fill out health declarations and face possible jail time if they do not declare symptoms.

Enhanced screening measures have also been set up at airports in Australia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Singapore, Russia, Malaysia and Vietnam.

In China, the government announced it was classifying the outbreak in the same category as SARS, meaning compulsory isolation for those diagnosed with the disease and the potential to implement quarantine measures on travel.

In Wuhan, authorities banned tour groups and police were conducting spot checks for animals in vehicles leaving and entering the city, state media said.

Passengers were being screened for fever at the airport, railway stations and bus terminals.

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