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U.S. confirms 1st human-to-human transmission of coronavirus

U.S. reports first case of person-to-person coronavirus transmission
WATCH: U.S. reports its first case of person-to-person coronavirus transmission

The United States confirmed its first case of human-to-human coronavirus transmission Thursday.

The latest case involves an patient who is married to a Chicago woman who got sick from the virus after she returned from a trip to Wuhan, China. The new patient had not been in China.

Multiple countries reporting first cases of coronavirus
Multiple countries reporting first cases of coronavirus

READ MORE: Canada’s 1st ‘presumptive’ case of new coronavirus discovered in Toronto

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The case is the sixth reported in the country.

All previous cases in the U.S. were of individuals who had travelled to China. There have been cases reported of the infectious virus spreading to others in a household or workplace in China and elsewhere.

Clearing up misconceptions about coronavirus
Clearing up misconceptions about coronavirus

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention said the threat level in the country remains low. U.S. experts had said they expected additional cases, and that at least some limited spread of the disease was likely.

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At a press briefing last Friday, the CDC’s Dr. Nancy Messonnier said: “We are likely going to see some cases among close contacts of travellers and human-to-human transmission.”

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

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Health officials think the new virus spreads mainly from droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how the flu spreads.

On Thursday, China reported its death toll from the illness to be 170. Of the latest deaths, 37 were in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital.  One death was in the southwestern province of Sichuan.

Outside China, there are 82 infections in 18 countries, according to the World Health Organization.

Is it safe to travel during the coronavirus outbreak?
Is it safe to travel during the coronavirus outbreak?

There are three confirmed cases of the virus in Canada, two in Ontario and one in British Columbia. All are linked to recent travel in China.

WHO declared a global health emergency over the illness Thursday. Only five emergencies have been declared in the past decade — the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, an Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, a polio outbreak in 2014, the Zika virus in 2016 and the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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Polling conducted earlier this week by Ipsos found that 87 per cent of Canadians are aware of the new coronavirus, but only 30 per cent believe the illness poses a threat to Canada.

— With files from Global News reporter Leslie Young, The Associated Press