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Australia, France confirm first cases of coronavirus as U.S. announces 2nd

Coronavirus case confirmed in Chicago: health officials
WATCH: Coronavirus case confirmed in Chicago, health officials say

Health officials have identified the first cases of coronavirus in Australia and France, as well as a new case for the United States.

The man diagnosed in Australia had arrived on a flight from Guangzhou, China, on Jan. 19. He is hospitalized and in stable condition, authorities in the state of Victoria said.

“It is important to stress that there is no cause for alarm to the community,” Victoria Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said.

Surgical masks sold out as France confirms first cases of coronavirus
Surgical masks sold out as France confirms first cases of coronavirus

READ MORE: Here’s what Wuhan, China looks like under quarantine for coronavirus

“The patient is isolated and is undergoing treatment and we do not have any further suspected cases at this stage.”

First coronavirus case confirmed in Australia
First coronavirus case confirmed in Australia

The three cases in France mark the first infections recorded in Europe since the outbreak began in December.

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French Health Minister Agnes said one case was identified in Bordeaux and the other near Paris. The third case, which involves one of the victims’ relatives, was announced separately.

France confirms first two cases of coronavirus in Paris, Bordeaux
France confirms first two cases of coronavirus in Paris, Bordeaux

Buzyn said that it was likely there will be further cases in the country.

The minister believes that France is the first European country to identify confirmed cases because of a test it has developed, which helps health officials diagnose the virus quickly.

READ MORE: What are coronavirus symptoms? In mild cases, just like the common cold

Hours earlier, American health officials announced the second case for the U.S. — this time in Chicago, Ill.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the individual infected had travelled in recent weeks to Wuhan, the central Chinese city at the epicentre of the outbreak.

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The patient is a woman in her 60s and a resident of Chicago. She was not sick while travelling and has had limited close contact with others since returning to Chicago on Jan. 13, local health officials told reporters.

China turns Wuhan toll gate into makeshift checkpoint as country battles to control coronavirus spread
China turns Wuhan toll gate into makeshift checkpoint as country battles to control coronavirus spread

“This is all very reassuring as far as infection risk to the general public,” said Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Health.

She said there’s no need for Chicago residents to change their behaviour “in any way” because local public health officials followed appropriate protocols for infectious disease.

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The woman called ahead to her doctor, Arwady said, alerting them of her illness. After an evaluation, the doctor referred the woman to the hospital for proper containment and evaluation.

Arwady reiterated that the risk still remains low for the spread of the disease, but did not identify the hospital where the woman is in isolation.

20 million in China under lockdown as coronavirus spreads
20 million in China under lockdown as coronavirus spreads
The CDC said it is currently monitoring 63 people in 22 states, and so far 11 of them were found to be free of the virus strain. 

Earlier this week, health officials identified a case in a man in his 30s in Washington, stoking fears of the outbreak trickling into the U.S.

He was in an isolation unit at the Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett as of Friday in satisfactory condition.

U.K. chief medical officer says ‘fair chance’ of coronavirus cases over time but none yet
U.K. chief medical officer says ‘fair chance’ of coronavirus cases over time but none yet

Hundreds of cases of the flu-like illness have been confirmed in China since the outbreak began last month. It has spread rapidly, reaching Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan and, more recently, the United States. There are no confirmed cases in Canada as of Jan. 24.

READ MORE: Demand for face masks on the rise amid coronavirus outbreak — but are they effective?

Coronaviruses are part of a large family of viruses with a wide range of severity. They include the common cold, but also more severe illnesses like SARS. So far, health officials do not believe the virus to be as deadly or contagious.

The virus, which is believed to have emerged from a seafood market in China, has killed 26 people and sickened nearly 900 others.

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The scattered number of cases in other countries have prompted airports around the world to step up monitoring and screening procedures for passengers from China. Fears of the virus spreading are at a particular high, as millions of Chinese travel and celebrate Lunar New Year starting this weekend.

In the U.S. alone, more than 2,000 travellers returning from Wuhan had been screened at airports across the country, according to the CDC.

A background on the coronavirus and its symptoms
A background on the coronavirus and its symptoms

China’s National Health Commission has locked down at least 10 cities in the province of Hubei, encompassing approximately 33 million people. A number of Lunar New Year events have been cancelled in major cities, as well. Chinese officials have not said how long the shutdowns would last.

The vast majority of cases and deaths have been in and around Wuhan.

On Thursday, the World Health Organization decided against declaring the outbreak a global emergency. While the United Nations health agency acknowledged that the outbreak had clearly risen to emergency-levels in China, it believes it is “too early” to say it is a global problem but it “may yet become one.”

A declaration of a global emergency triggers additional funding and resources to battle the outbreak. However, governments tend to restrict travel and trade to affected countries in response, making the declaration of an international crisis a political gamble.

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— With files from Reuters and The Associated Press